Meet this week’s billionaire, Beny Steinmetz, the first subject of our new series, A Billionaire’s Affairs. Beny was born in Netanya, Israel, is a French citizen, and despite the fact that he is 65 years old, has made headlines on and off for years in different countries. While the headlines have covered a wide spectrum of white-collar crimes such as bribery, corruption, fraud, forgery, and money laundering, we really know very little about his character. Mostly, this is by design. Steinmetz prefers to keep a low profile, staying out of public scrutiny whenever possible. Mr. Steinmetz is into diamonds and gold, and mining for these and other precious natural resources.
What We Know About Beny Steinmetz
One of Steinmetz’s main businesses is Beny Steinmetz Group Resources (or BSGR), which is active in the field of natural resources like gas, oil, metal, mining, and power. Another business, Koidu Holdings, is now wholly owned by BSGR and has been since 2007. Before that, it was a joint venture. It is unclear exactly what others he currently owns or controls, and quite frankly, nearly impossible to know. What is clear, is that it’s almost surely more than meets the eye.
We also know that in 1997, Steinmetz founded STI Ventures NV, a venture capital firm investing in Israeli startups, and in 1999 owned Tucows – a highly successful Canadian-American telecommunications company and domain name registrar, now public on the NYSE.
He owns the majority of the Steinmetz Diamond Group, as well as has significant stock in Cunico Resources and Gabriel Resources (gold mining). Additionally, we know Steinmetz has a real estate holdings company called Scorpio, with which he owns real estate all over the world, in places like Kazakhstan, Russia, and Eastern Europe.
At least, these facts were known at one time. The reality is, considering all his charges and even convictions, who knows what he’s really worth? One thing’s fairly certain: it’s much more than the $1-$1.5 billion Forbes and others estimate recently. Beny Steinmetz is nobody’s fool and is known for his investing and mining acumen. Unfortunately, he is also known as being a criminal.
Steinmetz and Real Estate
Where real estate is concerned, Steinmetz is linked as a financial backer to real estate developer HFZ Group, whose notorious business dealings include construction bribery and ties to the Gambino crime family. Interesting and frightening at the same time. Steinmetz was reported as being a major backer for the Belnord Building, an HFZ property at 225 West 86th Street, from documents filed in a lawsuit against Steinmetz that contained an organizational chart of investors. However, there have been extensive denials by HFZ to having any connection to Steinmetz. The document names Beny Steinmetz and Family Trusts, as controlling 100% of the company Tarpley Belnord Corp which controls 60% of the development company Belnord Partners, LLC, the developer in charge of the work at 225 West 86th street.
Steinmetz has also been accused of being linked to the XI building in West Chelsea at 76th 11th Ave, and while there is so far no proof there is a connection, it may be suspicious considering his track record.
A Convicted Criminal
So what do we know about his crimes? Let’s go back to the first major scandal, which had to do with a dispute Steinmetz had with the government of the Republic of Guinea, over mining rights for Simandou, in Africa. Suffice it to say, Beny had his eye on Simandou for a long while, as one of the largest untapped iron ore deposits in the world.
Back in 2008, a 3-year permit to explore and prospect for iron ore at Simandou was produced by Steinmetz, apparently awarded to BSGR Guinea by the President of Guinea at that time, Lansana Conté. One thing that drew a large amount of suspicion was the fact that the permit was obtained just two weeks before Conté died. The United States Department of Justice and the FBI began an investigation amidst rumors of bribery and corruption, though BSGR denied the accusations. Then in 2014, the Guinean government accused Steinmetz of bribing one of Conté’s wives in order to obtain the rights to mine at Simandou and said his mining rights were therefore being stripped. Steinmetz tried to fight this but ultimately ended up coming to an agreement with the new President Alpha Condé in 2019. The solution amounted to the Guinean government agreeing to drop the case and any accusations of wrongdoing, in exchange for BSGR relinquishing their ill-gotten mining rights to Simandou.
In between all of this, he was accused of devising a RICO scheme by another competing mining company, whose court claims were dismissed due to the statute of limitations being exceeded. In 2016, the head of that company was suspended, due to suspicion of an “unlawful payment” made to the personal advisor of the President of Guinea. It amounts to a convoluted mess of conspiracies and schemes over a potentially multi-billion dollar contract in mining.
In December of 2016, Steinmetz was arrested on charges of bribery and money laundering, the culmination of a cooperative investigation between Israel, the United States, Switzerland, and Guinea officials. He was initially placed on house arrest but ultimately released with no charges the following month. But ultimately, in January 2021, it was reported that after a years-long collaborative effort and multinational investigation, Steinmetz was beginning court proceedings on the landmark rare Swiss case. He was accused of money laundering, obstruction of justice and bribery, and ultimately convicted and sentenced to 5 years in prison for bribery. He was also fined and ordered to pay 50 million Swiss francs, about $56 million U.S. dollars. He is appealing the case.
It’s important to note that Steinmetz was also convicted just weeks prior in absentia in Romania, for the “creating of an organized criminal group” dating back to a 2006-2008 property-related case. Steinmetz and political advisor Tad Silberstein were both convicted and sentenced to 5 years in prison each, for these crimes. Though little information on the crimes here is known, what we do know is that it involved aiding Romania’s Prince Paul Phillipe to file an illegal claim to his fortune. In return, Steinmetz and Silberstein were promised a 50-80% cut of the restitution the state paid him, dating back to 2006. But somehow, the group became entrenched in a related fraudulent land deal involving 47 hectares of forest land in Snagov, a locality where mansions have been suspiciously appearing over the past two decades. Apparently, the whole mess cost the state over a hundred million dollars. Recent headlines indicate Steinmetz was detained in Greece after flying his private jet to an airport in Athens on an Interpol arrest warrant. He was released but must remain in Greece until it’s sorted out, and apparently, it was Budachrest (in Romania) who issued the warrant.
The Moral of These Affairs
The moral of this billionaire’s affairs? So far anyway, it seems that money can indeed buy just about anything – and if you’re a billionaire, you’re pretty much untouchable. It’s highly doubtful that Steinmetz will ever actually serve a day of any of his prison terms. However, it has permanently stained his reputation, on top of his 2019 bankruptcy filing right here in New York. Steinmetz then went on to file a lawsuit against his old pal George Soros accusing him of a supposed smear campaign that allegedly caused Steinmetz to ultimately lose his mining rights in Simandou, and at least $10 billion dollars.
Sounds like our friend Beny is a little bitter. I guess perhaps money still can’t buy happiness.
(featured image Unsplash & Wikicommons)
Rochelle Harris is a passionate writer originally from Phoenix, AZ. who credits her success to integrity and determination. She has a great sense of humor, loves music and her family, and writes fiction and poetry in her spare time. She is excited about the New York experience and lifestyle! Follow Rochelle on Twitter at @LinguisticAnRky or get in touch at [email protected]