Beny Steinmetz, the Israeli mining tycoon fighting a bribery conviction, told a Swiss court that the scandal has taken a heavy toll on his reputation and suggested that it may even have cost him billionaire status.
On his first day of testimony, the one-time diamond trader said relations with his bankers have become more difficult since his conviction, given the headlines that followed the Geneva court ruling in January, 2021.
“When my entourage reads what’s published in the press about me, they say ‘that isn’t the Beny Steinmetz we know,’” he said. “My financial situation has only deteriorated and it’s very complicated with the banks now.” While a precise figure of his fortune was hard to gage, he said it was now between “$500-million and $1-billion, max.”
Steinmetz, 66, is seeking to convince a trio of judges that fundamental mistakes were made by the Swiss judges who misinterpreted how he won the rights to the Simandou iron-ore mine in Guinea.
Steinmetz, dressed in a gray suit and white open-necked shirt, made the comments in response to preliminary questions posed by chief prosecutor Yves Bertossa on Wednesday.
The businessman was found guilty of bribing public officials in Guinea to secure the concession for the vast mountain of ore worth billions of dollars, and was sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to pay a penalty of 50 million Swiss francs ($52 million). The initial trial took place in Geneva as Steinmetz lived there until 2016.
Steinmetz said he retains just two homes, both in Israel with a value of $40-million to $50 -illion. Asked by Bertossa to describe his annual income, he declined to comment. Steinmetz is expected to testify further on Thursday before the trial wraps up next week.