US Arrests “Agent” of Steinmetz (BSGR) for Violations under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Associated with Guinea’s Simandou Mine

simandoumineSIMANDOU MINE -GUINEA

US arrests man linked to Israeli tycoon operations

By REUTERS

04/16/2013 06:01

FBI nabs French national who worked on behalf of BSG Resources on suspicion of corruption in Guinea mining operations.

NEW YORK/LONDON – FBI agents have arrested a man who worked as a representative of Israeli billionaire Beny Steinmetz‘ operations in Guinea, as part of a US probe into alleged corruption in the mineral-rich West African country.

BSG Resources, the mining arm of Steinmetz’ conglomerate, is currently battling the African nation over the right to mine one of the world’s largest untapped iron-ore deposits, known as Simandou. It has repeatedly denied Guinean government allegations that it paid bribes to the country’s former ruler to obtain the huge concession.

Frederic Cilins, 50, a French national named by the government of Guinea as “an agent” for BSG Resources, was arrested in Florida on Sunday by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He was charged with obstructing a criminal investigation, tampering with a witness and destruction of records, the US Department of Justice said on Monday.

US authorities in January began investigating potential illegal payments made to obtain mining concessions in Guinea and transfers of those payments into the United States. The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act allows US officials to pursue bribery cases abroad.

“Mr. Cilins is charged with scheming to destroy documents and induce a witness to give false testimony to a grand jury investigating potential violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman. The obstruction charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, the Justice Department said, and the tampering and record-destruction charges each carry up to 20 years.

Neither Cilins nor an attorney could be reached for comment after news of the arrest. A BSG Resources spokesman said the group had no immediate comment.

“We are aware that US authorities have arrested an associate of Beny Steinmetz in the context of a corruption investigation,” said a spokesman for the government of Guinea, Damantang Albert Camara. “We will, however, wait for events to develop to have a clearer view and will give a more detailed statement at the appropriate time.”

The arrest comes amid already-difficult relations between Guinea and BSG, and raises questions over the development of the Simandou deposit in partnership with Brazilian mining group Vale .

Vale declined to comment on the Cilins case.

BSG and the Guinean government have been at loggerheads for months. A government committee wrote in October to BSG and Vale, detailing allegations that BSG had offered and paid bribes in order to secure mining rights in Guinea.

BSG has denied the allegations, describing them as “a crude smear campaign.” The company charges the review process is designed to allow Guinea to renege on its obligations.

Court documents filed by US authorities did not name BSG, but said Cilins was engaged by an unnamed mining “entity” said to have obtained Blocks 1 and 2 of the Simandou deposit in 2008. Cilins is, however, named in the October letter from the Guinean government as a BSG representative in Guinea.

In a 2012 letter replying to the Guinean government’s allegations, BSG said that Cilins helped the firm set up its offices in Guinea in 2006. It said he attended meetings, which he set up, with the minister of mines. BSG said Cilins left Guinea in 2006 and stopped working for the firm.

Steinmetz’ BSG was awarded the northern half of Simandou – Blocks 1 and 2 – in 2008 by the government of long-ruling leader Lansana Conte. Conte died soon after granting the concession.

BSG was not required to pay any cash up front and was given permission to export via Liberia, a shorter route. In return, Steinmetz agreed to build a $1 billion railway from the capital of Conakry on the west coast to Kerouane in the southeast.

Vale bought a 51 percent stake from BSG in a $2.5 billion deal in 2010. However, only $500 million of that has been paid, as Vale says targets have not been met in project development.

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Guinea Military Plane Crash: US to Join Canada in Helping Liberia with Investigation

GUINMILAIRCRASHSITE OF GUINEAN MILITARY PLANE CRASH IN LIBERIA

Liberia: U.S., Canada to Probe Guinean Plane Crash

13 February 2013

The Government of Liberia (GOL) has disclosed that the Governments of the United States of America and Canada have agreed to help with the investigation regarding the plan crash which claimed the lives of a Guinean military delegation in Liberia.

The disclosure was made Tuesday, 12 February 2013 by Liberia’s Ministers of Information and Foreign Affairs, Messrs. Lewis Browne and Augustine Ngafuan in separate interviews in Monrovia. A CASA Aircraft (CN35) 3X-GGG conveying senior Guinean government officials to Liberia’s 56th Armed Forces Day celebrations Monday, February 11, 2013 crashed in Charlesville, Margibi County, close to the country’s lone international airport, the Roberts International Airport (RIA), killing eleven people.

Wreckage of the airliner was beyond recognition as rescue workers, including Red Cross workers and other health workers, who later trooped to the crash scene, removed charred bodies of victims from the burnt aircraft which crash landed few kilometers from the RIA. Liberia’s Information Minister Lewis G. Brown, in a press conference later Monday afternoon confirmed the crash, indicating that: “The Roberts International Airport (RIA) confirms a crash incident involving a CASA Aircraft (CN35) with registration 3X-GGG approximately three miles south of the aerodrome.”

He revealed that the crashed plane flew from Conakry, the Republic of Guinea, adding that: “At 0709 GMT Air Traffic Control cleared the flight to land at RIA. That was the last known contact with the crew. A search and rescue team has been dispatched to the scene. The team comprises of RIA Rescue and Firefighting Department, UNMIL, authorities of the Liberia Civil Aviation Authority (LAA), the Firestone PPD Rescue and Firefighting Team, Firestone Medical Team and the Red Cross.”

A presidential statement issued in Guinea Monday through that country’s ministry of defense confirmed the deaths of Guinean army chief of staff, Gen. Souleymane Kelefa Diallo and five others, who were part of an official Guinean government delegation aboard the crashed aircraft bound for this year’s celebration of Liberia’s Armed Forces Day.

Reports gathered by this paper quotes Guinean military spokesman Alpha Barry as saying that: “I can confirm that there was a crash … There were between 12 and 18 officers on the plane.”

The reports divulged that two pilots were also killed in the crash, adding that the crashed CASA Aircraft (CN35) was an official Guinean military aircraft bought for Guinea’s air force for US$12 million. The reports revealed that a statement from the office of Guinean President Alpha Conde quotes the Guinean leader as immediately appointing Gen. Namory Traore as interim army chief of staff of Guinea.

Meanwhile, Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, while speaking at the official ceremony marking Armed Forces Day Monday, confirmed the crash, and called for a moment of silence for the crash victims; declaring Tuesday, 12 February 2013 a day of mourning, that was observed as a national holiday throughout the country.

Howbeit, Information Minister Browne divulged Tuesday that the black box and the digital voice recorder from the crashed CASA (CN35) 3X-GGG aircraft were found, and that the government of Canada has agreed to take the recovered items for examination. For his part, Foreign Affairs Minister Ngafuan Tuesday informed the populous local radio talk show, the Truth Breakfast Show, that: “Our bilateral partners, the Americans are offering to assist with the investigation.”

He corroborated Information Minister Browne’s assertion regarding the recovery of the crashed aircraft’s black box, adding that: “The crash site was protected; so all the relevant information has been recovered from there to assist the investigation so that we can know precisely what caused the crash.”

Int’l. Community Renews Pressure on Guinea Elections. Where’s the Pressure on Conde’s Impunity and Human Rights Abuses?

2010 Presidential Election:  Seems like FOSSEPEL, Guinea’s Election Cops, should have been guarding ballot boxes to prevent Louceny Camara, current president of the electoral commission, from stealing thousands of ballots in the first round in order to prevent Cellou Dalein Diallo from winning the election outright, rather than beating up and hauling away this young kid.

This week, both the European Union (EU) and the United States (US) stated they intend to increase pressure on the Conde government and the opposition to work together and finalize plans for the elections. In Conakry, Philippe Van Damm, EU representative, stated that the release of important EU funding to Guinea is dependent on a firm plan and detailed timetable for holding elections. The US, which is about to increase pressure on Guinea as well, held a meeting at the State department on Wednesday to receive feedback from NGOs on how this might best be accomplished.

Yet, the real question for the US and the EU is: How will forcing yet another fraudulent election on the people of Guinea bring stability to a country that is on the threshold of an ethnic civil war? The international community’s maniacal focus on holding elections as the last stage in Guinea’s transition to a civilian government extends no further than “holding elections.” What we don’t hear is a call for free and fair elections, a demand that Conde quit treating his political opponents as if they were enemies of the state, and a demand for the reconstitution of the electoral commission, including the ouster of convicted felon, Louceny Camara, as its president.

In addition, the international community cannot continue to pretend it doesn’t know that Conde has put ethnic relations on a powder keg and that legislative elections are the spark.  Legislative elections will be worse than what we witnessed in the 2010 presidential election: rife with ethnic hatred spewed by Conde and violence against the Peul ethnic group by his political forces and state security plus, all manner of state-sponsored repression, including extra-judicial killings of Peuls and rape of Peul women by security forces under the command of interim leader, Sekouba Konate.

If the international community decides it is best to support free and fair elections rather than simply a conclusion to the “transition,” the electoral commission would have to be eliminated and Alpha Conde would have to be deposed. If stability in Guinea is the goal to preserve international investment, forcing an election now amidst new heights of impunity and ethnic hatred displayed by Conde, will make the 2010 election violence look like a tea party.

And, finally, everything the opposition asks for regarding legislative elections is supported by law or common fair practices. It does not need, nor should it be forced, to compromise on anything. The international community’s job is to keep an eye on Alpha Conde and pressure him to do the right thing.  A very tall order, but it’s the price it must pay for a truly stable Guinea.

GUINEA: Tony Blair and Alpha Conde — What a Pair!

If you are looking for a former head of state to dig around in the economies and resources of African countries, you cannot do better than Tony Blair.  Under the guise of the African Governance Initiative, Blair just finished a short trip to Guinea and, among other things, delved into discussions about the Guinean economy, promised to bring in more investors, and announced he is all about helping the poor of Guinea.  And, oh yes, he visited with his old friend, Alpha Conde.

In his post-prime minister life,Blair is known as a war criminal with a mounting number of countries he cannot travel to because of possible arrest. A newly published Downing Street letter from September 2002, five months before the Iraq invasion, confirms Blair planned to ignore the advice of his legal advisors and go to war knowing it was illegal.  From the beginning, it was clear that Bush and Blair would work as a tag team, fabricating reasons to go into Iraq, and then commanding military troops to illegally invade the country. The cost? Over 5,000 allied military (or “Coalition of the Willing”) dead and at least 1 million civilian Iraqi deaths.

In fact, as late as this past November 21, Blair and Bush were convicted at a mock trial in Kuala Lumpur of “crimes against peace.” A primary sponsor of the mock trial was Malaysia’s former premier, Muhatir Mohamad,a long time critic of the war and the role played by the US and Britain.

So, if you combine Blair’s criminal resume with Alpha Conde’s commanding Guinean troops to fire upon unarmed opposition members on April 3, commanding military, police, and Donzos to attack unarmed opposition protesters on September 27, and his official practice of ethnic hatred to “re-make” the country, you have two deadly peas in a pod. And, for those who think that Blair’s involvement in Guinea is a good thing because he could influence Conde to operate within democratic standards, think again. Before Blair left, he gave Conde an “at-a-boy” pat on the back for promoting good governance.

Ex-British PM ends visit to Guinea
Updated: 2011-12-14 11:17

(Xinhua)

CONAKRY – Former British prime minister Tony Blair ended his day-long visit in Guinea to seek closer cooperation with the West African country, the presidency said on Tuesday .

Speaking at a conference jointly organized on Monday with President Alpha Conde, Blair said he was in Guinea to help promote the country’s economy.

Accompanied by some other members of his institution, the Africa Governance Initiative, Blair said he will lobby the international community and other investors to come and invest in Guinea.

He said Guinea has the potentials which will attract investors. The visiting former British prime minister pledged his institution will help improve the daily life of the ordinary Guinean and to redress completely the Guinea’s economy.

Blair praised President Conde for his commitment to curb poverty in Guinea. He said he is very much impressed by President Conde’s zero tolerance against corruption and his move towards promoting good governance in Guinea.

President Conde, for his part, commended Blair for promising to help improve Guinea’s economy, saying he has no doubt that his aim will go through.

It was the second time Blair had visited Guinea this year. In July, he briefly visited Guinea in a bid to introduce his institution to his long-time friend Conde.

The Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative was founded in 2008 and is now operational in Sierra Leone, Angola, Liberia and Guinea.

US Restores Preferred Trade Status with Guinea Based on “Democratic Gains” – Kiss of Death for the People?

“DEMOCRATIC GAINS”

Conde continues to get a lot of mileage out of the theft of the 2010 election.  President Obama issued a declaration yesterday restoring preferred trade status to Guinea, Ivory Coast, and Niger.  Restoration of  Guinea’s status is based on its”free and fair” 2010 election and general “democratic gains.”  We know that the international community was so desperate to hold Guinea’s presidential elections in 2010 in order to paint a picture of calm for investors and to forestall a possible military uprising, that it purposely disregarded massive fraud and ethno-political violence.  It appears that the charade around the 2010 election was the sole criterion upon which the US judged Guinea for restored trade status, yet Conde’s record after taking office is of no consequence.  If you combine the Conde-ordered military attack on UFDG supporters at the airport in early April, Conde’s anti-Peul rhetoric, and the fact that, less than two months after Conde met with Obama at the White House, he ordered a deadly attack by police, military, and mercenaries on unarmed, peaceful protesters at the opposition march on September 27.

The US  has proclaimed Guinea to be “democratic” and, thus, worthy of restored trade status.  Unfortunately, this is the kiss of death for the people of Guinea because the US will not backtrack on this “democratic” label.  It will ignore anything that threatens Guinea’s “democratic” veneer, including gross human rights abuses and government aggression against the Peul ethnicity.  Finally, the US’ kiss of death guarantees it will force legislative elections even though the president of the electoral commission, Lounceny Camara, is the same guy who stole the 2010 election for Conde and the country is teetering on the precipice of ethnic war.

Statement by U. S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk: Washington, D.C.

 Today, United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk commented after President Obama signed a proclamation restoring trade preferences and other benefits to Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea and Niger under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea and Niger had previously lost their eligibility for AGOA benefits due to undemocratic changes in government. In late 2010 and early 2011, all three countries conducted Presidential elections that were considered free and fair.

“President Obama’s determination and proclamation today is good news – not only for the people of these three African nations – but also for the U.S. businesses and workers trading with and investing in those countries,” said Ambassador Kirk. “Today’s announcement is the result of rigorous review by the Obama Administration to determine whether Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, and Niger have made progress in meeting AGOA’s eligibility criteria. We have seen progress in each of these countries, in conducting free and fair elections and taking other actions to promote democratic government and market-based economies. We are, therefore, proud to announce the restoration of trade preferences to these important trading partners under the African Growth and Opportunity Act – which remains a vital and growing pillar of U.S.-Africa trade policy.”

(AFP) – 19 hours ago WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama restored privileged US trade partner status Tuesday to Ivory Coast, Niger and Guinea following democratic gains in the African countries, the White House said. Obama announced his decision after the annual review of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, which allocates trade preferences and other benefits to certain African countries based on democratic advances or setbacks. “Today, the President signed a proclamation which restores trade preferences and other benefits to Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, and Niger under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA),” said National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor. “Each country had previously lost its eligibility for AGOA benefits due to undemocratic changes in government.” The nations held presidential elections in 2010 that were considered free and fair, prompting a review which found all three had made continual progress towards meeting AGOA benchmarks. Those criteria include the establishment of a market-based economy and the rule of law, the enactment of economic policies designed to reduce poverty and steps to protect worker rights and to combat corruption. “Today’s proclamation is good news for the people of Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, and Niger, and also for the US businesses and workers trading with and investing in these three African nations,” Vietor said. The announcement came as the president prepared to head to France next week for the G20 summit of developed and developing nations. Ivory Coast lost its AGOA eligibility after years of political unrest in 2005. In 2010, presidential elections triggered new violence when president Laurent Gbagbo refused to leave office after he lost the elections. The rightful winner of the polls, Alassane Ouattara, eventually prevailed and was sworn into office in May this year. Guinea lost its privileges last year after a coup. But after elections viewed by outsiders as free and fair, President Alpha Conde took office last December and legislative elections are expected to take place soon. Niger lost AGOA eligibility last year after president Mamadou Tanja attempted to stay in power after a second term in office. Tanja was deposed in a military coup and new elections took place which saw President Mahamadou Issoufou take office in April 2011.

The CENI Official Who Stole the 2010 Election for Conde Has Just Been Elected Its President

Guinean websites are reporting that Lounceny Camara, the man who stole the 2010 election for Alpha Conde and who committed massive election fraud to accomplish it, has just been elected president of the Guinean electoral commission, known as the CENI.

This news is not surprising and, in fact, it was predictable.  The European Union and the United States are nervous that Alpha Conde has not scheduled legislative elections, yet. In particular, the EU is waiting on Conde to announce a date before it resumes full relations with Guinea.

Camara’s presence at the helm of the CENI may be right on time, that is, if Conde is trying to delay elections. During the 2010 election, the second round was delayed for months precisely because of the controversy over Camara’s continued membership on the CENI after extensive evidence of his election fraud surfaced.  If, indeed, Conde is reluctant to schedule elections soon, Camara’s presiding over the CENI may buy the extra time needed to, well, fix the elections.  Whatever Conde’s strategy is, for the people of Guinea, the next election will mean, just like the last one, that the concept of “free and fair” does not apply.

If you wish to learn more about Lounceny Camara and the 2010 election, please see these posts on this website:

September 25, 2010

Amid Controversy Over His Election, Including Allegations of Buying Votes of Fellow Electoral Comm. Members, Camara Becomes “New” Chair of CENI « GUINEA OYE!

October 6, 2010

Tension Overshadows Looming Guinea Election — CENI President’s Fraud Not Being Addressed « GUINEA OYE!

October 7, 2010

Guinea’s CENI Scam Continues with Help of Judge’s Postponement of 15 Days for Trial of Guinea Electoral Chief « GUINEA OYE!

October 11, 2010

Guinea’s Second Round Presidential Campaign Begins in Spite of Konate’s Refusal to Resolve CENI Crisis GUINEA OYE!

Human Rights Watch: Konate, Restrain Your Security Forces During Election — HRW and Others Will Be Watching

(Dakar, November 5, 2010) – The special unit to maintain security during the second round of Guinea’s presidential elections, on November 7, 2010, should act with discipline, minimum force, and neutrality, Human Rights Watch said today. While the first round of elections took place in June in relative calm, the run-off election will take place amid heightened ethnic and political tensions.

In May, the Guinean government created the Special Force for a Safe Electoral Process (Force spéciale de sécurisation du processus électoral, FOSSEPEL), with 16,000 members, half of them police and half gendarmes, to ensure security during and after the electoral process. The few clashes between supporters of different political parties before and immediately after the first round were defused quickly and in apparent compliance with the principles of minimum use of force. However, FOSSEPEL officials’ response to political violence in late October in Conakry, the capital, was characterized by excessive force, lack of discipline, criminality, and ethnic partisanship.

“The chances for violence during, and particularly after, this election are very real,” said Corinne Dufka, senior West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The Guinean security services must do all they can to protect all Guineans and ensure that the electorate is able to cast their votes free of fear.”

General Ibrahim Baldé, the head of the National Gendarmerie, commands the special unit. In July, Baldé signed a much-needed Use of Force Policy, under which Guinean security forces are required to adhere to internationally recognized best practices for responding to violence, including minimum use of force.

During the October clashes, Human Rights Watch received numerous credible reports of misconduct by policemen and gendarmes serving with FOSSEPEL, including beatings and assaults on party supporters. In some cases, the victims were even chased into their homes and workplaces. Based on the reports, some members of the security unit used the unrest as a pretext to loot shops and commit criminal acts, including theft of mobile phones, money, and other goods.

Each of the two candidates for the run-off election is from one of the country’s two largest ethnic groups, and members of each group largely support the candidate from their own group. Cellou Dalein Diallo, of the Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea (Union des forces démocratiques de Guinée, UFDG), is a Peuhl; and Alpha Condé, Rally of the Guinean People Party (Rassemblement du peuple de Guinée, RPG), is a Malinké. Very few Peuhls are members of the security services, though.

Witnesses described how some FOSSEPEL officers targeted individuals for abuse and theft on the basis of their ethnicity, using racially motivated threats and warning them not to vote for a particular party. Scores of protesters were also arbitrarily detained in gendarme camps and denied access to legal representation.

After the unrest in October, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) reported that at least one person had been killed and 62 injured by the security forces in what it determined was excessive use of force. Members of FOSSEPEL have been implicated in many of the recorded incidents. During some incidents, demonstrators erected roadblocks, burned tires, and threw stones, wounding some members of the security forces.

Instead of initiating investigations into allegations of abuse, FOSSEPEL officials appear to have distanced themselves from responsibility, Human Rights Watch said. Local news sources have reported that senior members of the security forces, including Baldé himself, said the alleged abuses were committed by “uncontrolled elements” within the police, gendarmes, and army.

Political and ethnic tension has been steadily rising in Guinea since September. The body charged with overseeing the election has only recently resolved a leadership crisis, while Guineans have waited through three postponements for the presidential election’s second round. A suspected poisoning of dozens of supporters of the Guinean People Party during a meeting in Conakry spurred ethnically motivated attacks against members of the Peuhl ethnicity in at least four towns. The violence displaced about several thousands of people, mostly from the eastern towns of Siguiri, Kouroussa, and Kissidougou.

The tension has led many diplomats, analysts, and civil society leaders to warn of the likelihood of political violence after the second round. Human Rights Watch urged the Guinean authorities, especially General Baldé, to:

– Direct all members of FOSSEPEL forces to abide by the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials in policing demonstrations, and to frequently, and publicly, reinforce these instructions;

– Reiterate a zero-tolerance policy for criminal behavior and human rights abuses by the police and gendarmes; and

– Inform all ranks of the security forces that credible allegations of human rights abuses by security forces will be investigated and that those responsible will be disciplined and held to account.

The UN principles require law enforcement officials, in carrying out their duties, to use nonviolent means as far as possible before resorting to force. Whenever the lawful use of force is unavoidable, law enforcement officials must use restraint, minimize damage and injury at all times, and respect and preserve human life. Guinean authorities are responsible for ensuring that commanding officers are held accountable if they know, or had reason to know, that law enforcement officials under their command resorted to the unlawful use of force and firearms, and if they failed to take all measures in their power to prevent, suppress, or report such abuse.

Guinean security forces have on numerous occasions in the past used excessive and lethal force and engaged in widespread criminal activities in the course of responding to demonstrations. In 2006 and 2007, about 150 people were killed while protesting deteriorating economic conditions, and 1,700 were wounded. On September 28, 2009, at least 150 demonstrators were killed and 100 women and girls were raped by security forces during a bloody crackdown on demonstrators calling for free and fair elections.

Human Rights Watch also called on the United Nations, the European Union, France, and the United States to exert consistent and meaningful pressure on the security unit’s commanders and Guinea’s political leaders to ensure credible and peaceful elections.

“The second round of Guinea’s elections can be a turning point for people long denied the right to freely elect their president,” Dufka said. “If the security forces remain neutral, act professionally, and respond to any violence by making every effort to protect human life, they can help make this election a victory for all Guineans.”