Billionaire Beny Steinmetz says the suspension of a senior Rio Tinto Group executive this week over a payment in Guinea is evidence of an elaborate plot that culminated in Steinmetz’s mining company being stripped of its rights to a $20 billion iron-ore project two years ago.
Steinmetz’s BSG Resources Ltd. and Rio, the world’s second-biggest mining company, have been engaged in a bitter dispute over rights to one of the world’s most prized mineral assets for about a decade.
BSGR, which has rejected allegations of bribery, had its rights to half of the iron-rich mountain in West Africa revoked after the government said it had found evidence of corruption in awarding the licenses.
This week, Rio’s Alan Davies, who headed the London-based company’s energy and minerals unit that was responsible for Simandou, was suspended pending an investigation into the lawfulness of $10.5 million in payments to consultant Francois de Combret in 2011. Former Rio executives Tom Albanese and Sam Walsh discussed whether to make the payments, according to e-mails seen by Bloomberg News.
“We have been fighting very powerful forces,” the 60-year-old Steinmetz, who amassed his fortune in the diamond trade, said in an interview in London on Thursday. “We all knew justice would prevail. I feel vindicated. We knew all along that we were right. Our asset was taken away based on lies.”
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