Président brouillon et pion

Président de la Guinée et président en exercice de l’Union Africaine (2017-2018), Alpha Condé suggère, d’une réunion à l’autre, de couper le cordon ombilical entre l’Afrique et l’Europe. Il ne faut surtout pas le prendre à ses mots. Car il dit le contraire de ce qu’il pense, et pense le contraire de ce qu’il dit. M. Condé ne formule pas là un souhait sincère, ni même un voeu pieux. Il se lance plutôt dans une rengaine  cynique, une manoeuvre fourbe et une tactique trompeuse.

Président bavard et brouillon

Alpha Condé voudrait faire accroire l’Afrique est désormais majeure. Malheureusement il ne fournit pas de données pour étayer son bavardage et sa démagogie. Pis, il feint d’ignorer la dépendance systématique de son régime vis-à-vis de pilleurs tels que le Groupe Bolloré. Par dessus-tout le “professeur” refuse de tenir compte de la faiblesse systémique du continent par rapport aux économies étrangères. En effet tous les voyants clignotent au rouge vif en Afrique :

  • Analphabétisme
  • Déclin des systèmes d’éducation et de recherche
  • Marginalisation du paysannat
  • Affaiblissement du réseau de santé
  • Non-industrialisation, avec pour causes et conséquences : la faiblesse de la production énergétique (domestique et industrielle), le manque d’eau potable, etc.
  • Exclusive et excessive présence des industries extractives (mines, pétrole, bois)
  • Importation déséquilibrée des produits (principaux et secondaires) de consommation
  • Mise à l’écart de l’ordre financier mondial et des marchés de capitaux

M. Condé a donc beau jeu de se démener et voyager. Il parle et se déplace dans le vide. Déboussolé et déphasé, il brandit le spectre maudit de Sékou Touré, qu’il voudrait imiter —comme le tueur Moussa Dadis Camara —, de manière sélective, oppressive et versatile.

Président pion

Le discours pseudo-nationaliste de M. Conté expose son manque de stratégie. Brouillon à souhait, il enfonce la Guinée dans la paupérisation, et ce, au nom de ses médiocres intérêts personnels et familiaux.
Mais sa rhétorique est contredite et annulée par l’appauvrissement croissant de l’Afrique et de la Guinée. Mais son idéologie tronquée jure avec le quotidien des Guinéens. Les citoyens ploient sous les calamités : mauvaise gouvernement, violations des droits de l’homme, corruption, impunité, etc.
En dernière analyse, Président Alpha Condé n’est qu’un pion. Consentant dans ce rôle, il accepte allégrément la manipulation par ses tuteurs et bailleurs globaux et/ou régionaux.

Il suffit de lire l’article ci-dessous, publié hier par Jeune Afrique, pour mesurer l’ampleur des machinations du chef de l’Etat et de son entourage, ainsi que l’étendue de la débâcle et de la désespérance de ses populations guinéennes.

Le journaliste Mathieu Olivier est le signataire du document. Il n’a pas honte d’employer la désignation “palais Sékoutouréya” : illégitime et imméritée, illicite et illégale. Il devrait plutôt écrire Palais de la présidence de la république. Comme l’Elysée à Paris, l’immeuble est le siège d’une institution : la branche exécutive de l’Etat. Propriété publique et impersonnelle, aucun nom individuel ne doit lui être attaché. Surtout pas celui de Sékou Touré !

Tierno S. Bah


Bras de fer de titans entre Soros et Steinmetz autour d’une mine géante en Guinée

En plaçant ses apôtres de la transparence au plus près du cabinet présidentiel de la Guinée, George Soros a écarté un de ses ennemis jurés. Une stratégie bien rodée dont Jeune Afrique dévoile les coulisses.

« J’essaie de t’appeler mais tu ne réponds à aucun de tes numéros, y compris ton portable. » Ce 27 avril 2013, Alpha Mohamed Condé est inquiet. Le fils du chef de l’État guinéen tente de joindre Scott Horton, avocat américain de DLA Piper, pour l’entretenir d’une histoire que l’agence Bloomberg s’apprête à écrire, et qui semble embarrasser la présidence. La ligne ne passe pas. « Alpha Mohamed » se rabat sur sa messagerie électronique, en espérant être plus chanceux. Un reporter de Bloomberg à Conakry travaille en effet sur un article concernant un accord passé entre la Guinée et le Liberia pour l’évacuation, via Monrovia, d’une partie du minerai issu du mont Nimba.

Or, Conakry veut éviter que cette information ne revienne aux oreilles des grandes sociétés minières présentes en Guinée, qui sont elles aussi tentées d’utiliser la voie libérienne plutôt que de financer un « corridor central » menant à Conakry – ce que souhaiteraient les autorités guinéennes. « Il est extrêmement important que cette histoire ne sorte pas », explique Scott Horton dans un e-mail au fils du président et au ministre des Mines, Mohamed Lamine Fofana, ce même 27 avril. Son objectif : corriger le tir en ajustant les déclarations du ministre, et ne pas donner l’impression d’un « feu vert » pour la potentielle exportation du fer de la mine de Simandou par le Liberia.

Dans les secrets du cabinet DLA

DLA Piper n’est pas n’importe quel cabinet. Il a parmi ses clients George Soros, le célèbre milliardaire américain, qui en a fait son relais en Guinée. Quant à Scott Horton, il n’est pas non plus n’importe quel avocat. Collaborateur de Soros, ce natif de Greenville, en Caroline du Sud, a connu le milliardaire il y a trente ans, à l’époque où ce dernier avait le regard porté sur l’Europe de l’Est.

C’est d’ailleurs George Soros qui, en avril 2011, a fait en sorte que la route de Scott Horton croise celle d’Alpha Condé, le nouveau président guinéen, élu en décembre 2010. Ce dernier et George Soros se connaissent déjà. Ils se sont rencontrés par l’intermédiaire de Bernard Kouchner, ancien ministre français des Affaires étrangères.

Le milliardaire n’hésite donc pas à demander à son ami Horton, 55 ans à l’époque, d’aller rencontrer « Alpha », fraîchement installé au palais de Sékoutoureya. Le président, explique Soros, veut lancer des réformes, notamment dans les mines, secteur qu’il soupçonne d’avoir alimenté les caisses noires de son prédécesseur Lansana Conté, et il faut l’y aider. Le rôle de DLA Piper en Guinée est officiellement, et avec l’appui des ONG « sorosiennes », d’accompagner le gouvernement dans ses réformes. Il lance pour cela des enquêtes, dont une partie est menée par un certain Steven Fox, ancien du département d’État américain qui a travaillé pour la CIA, dirigeant de la société d’évaluation des risques Veracity Worldwide.

Les investigations mettent au jour des faits de corruption dans le passage des contrats miniers, qui sont donc réétudiés. DLA Piper, qui a rédigé le rapport, pointe en particulier le groupe minier BSGR, du Franco-Israélien Beny Steinmetz, accusé d’avoir obtenu les droits sur le gisement de Simandou par « corruption apparente ». Or Steinmetz n’est, lui non plus, pas n’importe qui : il est l’ennemi juré de George Soros.

La rivalité entre les deux hommes remonte à près de vingt ans, en Russie, en 1998. Depuis, les épisodes se succèdent, avec d’un côté le groupe Steinmetz, qui utilise jusqu’en 2012 l’agence de communication FTI, et de l’autre les hommes de Soros. DLA Piper a-t-il été l’instrument du milliardaire américain dans une guerre personnelle ? Toujours est-il que, dès le début de la présidence d’Alpha Condé, l’affrontement gagne la Guinée, où, chez DLA Piper, on s’emploie à contrer la menace BSGR, n’hésitant pas à « inspirer » la stratégie de la présidence guinéenne.

Une cellule est mise en place. En font partie Alpha Mohamed Condé, Mohamed Lamine Fofana, ministre des Mines, et Ibrahima Kalil Kaba, le directeur de cabinet du président, proposé comme coordinateur. Leur « coach » : Scott Horton. Le 1er juin 2013, c’est lui qui fait le point, par e-mail, à cette petite équipe sur la stratégie à adopter dans le secteur minier. Ce diplômé de l’université du Texas, qui échange de façon régulière avec George Soros, va droit au but.

« La Guinée passe constamment à côté d’opportunités en étant trop lente à réagir et en étant instrumentalisée par des personnes comme M. Steinmetz », estime-t-il. Et de leur conseiller une offensive fondée sur le fait que « la Guinée est une victime de Steinmetz ». Il va plus loin : « Nous sommes très proches maintenant d’obtenir des informations selon lesquelles Steinmetz finance et radicalise l’opposition, les poussant à envisager un changement de régime sans élections. […] Je pense que ce serait un coup majeur de la part de la présidence. »

Info ou intox ? À l’époque, cela fait en tout cas plusieurs mois que DLA Piper réfléchit à une stratégie, notamment via les médias, visant à contrer « les attaques de BSGR ». Alors que le gouvernement est empêtré dans l’affaire du prêt guinéen contracté auprès de la société Palladino, c’est par exemple une nouvelle fois Scott Horton qui intervient. Le 21 mars 2013, il met en relation deux communicants engagés par la présidence guinéenne, Célia Grémy, du cabinet Momentum Consulting, et Chris McShane, de Hillingdon Cresswell, avec les conseillers presse de Palladino, Lawrence Dore et Locksley Ryan.

Contre-Attaque

Objectif : déminer le possible scandale Palladino et présenter le prêt entre le gouvernement guinéen et Palladino plus transparent, notamment en le publiant sur internet. Moins d’un mois plus tard, les équipes touchent au but. Lawrence Dore propose d’écrire un communiqué dans lequel il serait clair que quelqu’un, « comme BSGR, a cherché à dénaturer le prêt Palladino pour discréditer le gouvernement ».

À la même période, BSGR est peu à peu écarté de Simandou. Sous le régime du président Lansana Conté, le groupe avait en effet réussi à obtenir la moitié des concessions de la mine. Elle les avait revendues en 2009 au groupe brésilien Vale, pour 2,5 milliards de dollars. Mais, en avril 2013, après les accusations de corruption contre BSGR, Vale rompt l’accord, moyennant l’abandon de son avance de 500 millions de dollars.

Le 16 juin 2013, une rencontre réunit à Londres Sam Walsh, président-directeur général de Rio Tinto, Jin-Yong Cai, son homologue de la Société financière internationale (IFC, filiale de la Banque mondiale), et Alpha Condé, présent au Royaume-Uni à l’occasion du G8. L’hôte de cette réunion extraordinaire n’est autre que George Soros, un habitué des rendez-vous en marge des sommets internationaux.

Cette rencontre n’est pas anodine : elle confirme les dispositions prises par l’État guinéen pour abroger les permis détenus par BSGR, alors que Rio Tinto, associé au chinois Chinalco, obtient le droit d’exploitation totale de Simandou. Depuis, la guerre par réseaux interposés n’a pas faibli. Le Franco-Israélien, assigné à résidence en Israël, est aujourd’hui accusé de corruption par la Guinée, le FBI et le canton de Genève. Un de ses anciens collaborateurs, Frédéric Cilins, a été condamné à deux ans de prison aux États-Unis. Au cœur de plusieurs enquêtes, Beny Steinmetz ne se prive toutefois pas de contre-attaquer : le 14 avril, il a déposé plainte à New York contre Soros et sa fondation Open Society Foundations, qu’il accuse d’avoir fait échouer ses projets à Simandou.

Mathieu Olivier
Jeune Afrique

Simandou. The bribery saga reaches new peaks

Lurid bribery revelations led the government of Guinea to confiscate world-beating iron ore reserves from junior mining company BSG Resources in 2014. So when bitter rival Rio Tinto, owner of a neighbouring concession, detonated a scandal over its own secretive payments, BSGR boss Beny Steinmetz was cock-a-hoop.

Beny Steinmetz, BSGR
Beny Steinmetz, BSGR

Developments in this sordid tale have kept the mining world agog. The concessions high in West Africa’s Simandou Mountains have yet to deliver a single tonne of ore but continues to yield an unending stream of dirt—and to provide object lessons to an industry with a sorry history of dodgy deals.

Details of Rio’s relationship with François Polge de Combret, a French banker and university friend of Guinea’s president have been explosive—and have already cost two top executives their jobs [paywall]. They prove the Guinean government singled BSGR out unfairly, says Beny Steinmetz, the billionaire diamond magnate behind the company.

“It’s a big conspiracy against us,” said Steinmetz, who is under criminal investigation in at least three countries over the Guinea bribery. “They tried to paint themselves as nice and clean but they never wanted to develop one tonne of iron ore. We are the good guys.”

François de Combret
François de Combret

But emails and court testimony seen by Global Witness show it wasn’t just Rio tangling with de Combret: BSGR had its own relationship with the president’s confidant—a potentially lucrative arrangement for the banker had he succeeded in helping Steinmetz retain the asset.

Global Witness first exposed BSGR’s Guinea imbroglio in 2012. The latest revelations are a reminder that no one has come well out of the Simandou saga—least of all the Guinean people, whose country clings obstinately to the bottom end of almost every development index despite the untold riches beneath its soil.

But let’s start at the beginning.

Rio had been sitting on Simandou for over a decade. The colossal ore trove promised to be a game-changer in the global market. But Simandou is remote and mountainous, and Guinea’s infrastructure is poor. For Rio, conditions were never quite right and as the Simandou project languished, Guinean frustration mounted.

In July 2008, matters came to a head. The government abruptly cancelled half of Rio’s Simandou rights, handing them to BSGR. Steinmetz’s relative inexperience with big mining projects didn’t prevent him from cashing in: within 18 months BSGR had sold 51 per cent of its holding to Brazilian mining giant Vale for $2.5 billion—twice Guinea’s entire budget at the time.

Only later did it emerge that there was more to the deal than simply getting a stalled project off the buffers. In 2013 Global Witness revealed a massive bribery scheme: BSGR had signed contracts promising one of the wives of Guinea’s ailing dictator, Lansana Conte, millions for her influence to get the mine. The following year, the newly elected democratic government stripped BSGR of its rights after an inquiry. Authorities in Israel, Switzerland and the US have launched criminal investigations.

Meanwhile, Rio had its own problems. The Anglo-Australian company was still dragging its feet in developing its remaining half of Simandou and by mid-2011 the Guinean government was threatening to take that too. It took months of talks, promises to build a port and a railway, $700 million and – according to the leaked emails – the services of François Polge de Combret for Rio to keep a grip on its Guinean assets.

Guinean authorities have raised concerns that Rio may have been paying de Combret to secretly fight its corner while he was advising the government. “It raises both legal and ethical concerns if, as media reports suggest, Mr de Combret was passing on privileged information in return for large amounts of money,” said Guinea’s mining minister. “Mr de Combret was at the time acting in a capacity that would have given him access to highly confidential information.”

De Combret didn’t come cheap: Rio negotiated his fee down to $10.5 million. With billions at stake, it seemed a bargain.

“I accept that this is a lot of money, but I also put forward that the result we achieved was significantly improved by Francois’ contribution and his very unique and unreplaceable services and closeness to the President,” wrote Rio’s head of energy and minerals Alan Davies in a May 2011 email to other executives. When that email and others were leaked online, Davies and Rio legal chief Deborah Valentine got fired.

Joy in the Steinmetz camp. “We have been fighting very powerful forces,” the billionaire told Bloomberg in a rare interview. “We all knew justice would prevail. I feel vindicated.”

Not so fast.

If Rio was in dodgy territory with de Combret, BSGR wasn’t far behind. An 11 April 2012 email seen by Global Witness suggests Steinmetz’s company had an almost identical arrangement with the French middleman. By this time BSGR was fighting off the Guinean government’s corruption inquiry. BSGR knew that a finding against it could lead to the confiscation of its blocks.

“Dear Francois,” wrote a mutual friend of de Combret and BSGR agent Frederic Cilins, who later served time in a US prison for his role in the Simandou bribery. “A matter has just been brought to my attention regarding iron ore in the area of Simandou. I don’t know the details but apparently this zone has been the subject of negotiations and of a contract with the Israeli group BSGR.”
“It seems that you know this dossier well,” the friend wrote. “Would you accept to speak with the person who brought BSGR into Guinea? The man in question is Frederic Cilins.”
“I’ll have to ask the authorisation of the President,” replied de Combret in a message forwarded to Cilins.

On November 18 2012, de Combret sent Cilins from his iPad the outlines of a hypothetical agreement to end Steinmetz’s dispute with Guinea: BSGR would hand back its 49% stake in its two  Simandou blocks, while the proceeds from selling the remaining 51% to Vale would be split between BSGR and the government. De Combret then helped arrange a meeting between Guinea, BSGR and Vale “to discuss an amicable settlement”, arbitration documents show.

Through de Combret, BSGR was “trying to explore whether a settlement with President Conde would be possible”, Steinmetz told the arbitration hearing in an affidavit. Had “efforts through M. de Combret led to the project getting back on track I would have advised BSGR to pay a fee. It would have been a very valuable contribution.”

The settlement drawn up by de Combret never materialised. In December 2016, Steinmetz was arrested in Israel over Simandou bribery payments (he was released on bail with a travel ban, though arrangements were made to fly him to Geneva for questioning by Swiss prosecutors).

Rio, for its part, took the drastic step of reporting itself to authorities in three countries, with a warning to investors that the de Combret affair “could ultimately expose the group to material financial cost”. Davies has said “there are no grounds for the termination of my employment”.

So far there have been no winners in the battle over Simandou. But in the case of BSGR, anti-corruption agencies have shown they can collaborate globally to tackle the bribery that drains billions from the world’s poorest countries.

Similar scrutiny of Rio’s payments would send a clear message to the biggest beasts of the mining world that it is time for the old ways to change.

Danie Balint-Kurt
Global Witness

Gambia, Och-Ziff, Guinea, Niger, Chad, RDC

Former president Yahya Jammeh departs Banjul, Jan. 21
Former president Yahya Jammeh departs Banjul, Jan. 21

President Alpha Condé stepped  in the Gambian post-electoral crisis at the last minute. He and Mauritanian president “convinced” former president Yahya Jammeh to yield to President Adama Barrow  and head into exile.
In Conakry, people quickly credited President Condé, deeming it a foreign policy victory. Unfortunately, they have little to say in support of their allegation.  Actually, Yahya was caught between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, he had long lost credibility and now the vote of the majority of citizens. On the other, and if it came to that, ECOWAS military forces were determined to remove Mr. Jammeh from the presidential palace.

It appears now that all Jammeh wanted was to keep his stolen money and ill-gotten luxury goods. He has amassed immense personal wealth at the expense of the Gambian people.

Tactically though, ECOWAS agreed to last minute negotiations that involved General Idriss Déby Itno, president of Chad since 1990, who offered a freight plane to transport Yahya cherished possessions to Malabo.
Once that deal was sealed, Jammeh, escorted by Alpha Condé, flew out of Banjul into exile in Equatorial Guinea.

Mindful of Jammeh’s post-electoral illegitimacy and greedy bargaining, African presidents simply acknowledged his departure. They did not celebrate the event, nor did they use it as a domestic politics scoring game. Only Alpha Condé and his cronies  resorted to such gimmicks and nonsense.

A case in point, President has appointed Tibou Kamara —Yahya Jammeh brother-in-law— as one of his many counselors, an empty title due to the lack of functions. Yesterday, political enemies, the two men are now allies. The pair has come to realize that the same personal and sterile ambition drives them. Birds of the same feathers flock together.

Anyhow, there are lessons to be learned from African dictators’ fall from grace. In 2014, it was the popular insurrection against Blaise Compaoré in Burkina Faso. And now, after a stunning electoral defeat, Yahya Jammeh reneged and tried to hang on to power. ECOWAS, the AU and the UN would have none of it.

Mr. Condé has been dogged lately by revelations about his own suspicious wheeling and dealing in the Simandou  corruption scandal.

A federal court in Brooklyn has charged Michael Cohen and Vanja Baros, executives of Hedge Fund giant Och-Ziff, for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. In 2010 Och-Ziff wired millions of dollars to the Swiss bank account of a French lobbyist, and former adviser to President Condé.
That payment has been linked to other Och-Ziff corruption allegations in Niger, Chad  and the DRC. Will Alpha Condé face a political fallout and judicial implications for his financial schemes?

Time will tell.

Meanwhile, just like Blaise and Yahya before hime, Alpha should remember this: “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” (Abraham Lincoln)

Tierno S. Bah


Hedge Fund Execs Charged in Multi-Million Dollar Bribery Scheme

U.S. securities regulators on Thursday accused two former executives at hedge fund Och-Ziff Capital Management of masterminding a far-reaching scheme to pay tens of millions of dollars in bribes to African officials.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court in Brooklyn, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission accused Michael Cohen, who headed Och-Ziff’s European office, and Vanja Baros, a former analyst, of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

The lawsuit came after Och-Ziff agreed in September to pay $412 million to resolve U.S. investigations relating to the hedge fund’s role in bribing officials in several African countries.

That settlement led to a subsidiary of Och-Ziff pleading guilty to participating in a scheme to bribe officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in what prosecutors said marked the first U.S. foreign bribery case against a hedge fund.

In its lawsuit, the SEC said Cohen, 45, and Baros, 44, from 2007 to 2012 caused bribes to be paid to officials in Libya, Chad, Niger, Guinea, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo through agents, intermediaries, and business partners.

Those bribes were paid to secure a $300 million investment from the Libyan Investment Authority sovereign wealth fund; an investment in a Libyan real estate development project; and to secure mining deals, the SEC said.

Ronald White, a lawyer Cohen, said in a statement he “has done nothing wrong and is confident that when all the evidence is presented, it will be shown that the SEC’s civil charges are baseless.”

A lawyer for Baros did not immediately respond to requests for comment. An Och-Ziff spokesman declined to comment.

In settling in September, Och-Ziff entered a deferred prosecution agreement, in which charges related to conduct in several countries would be dropped after three years if it followed the deal’s terms.

Och-Ziff CEO Daniel Och meanwhile agreed with the SEC to pay $2.17 million, and the commission also settled with the company’s chief financial officer.

To date, only one individual has been criminally charged in connection with the probe, Samuel Mebiame, a son of the late former Gabon Prime Minister Leon Mebiame who prosecutors say acted as a “fixer” for a joint-venture involving Och-Ziff.

In December, Mebiame pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, admitting he schemed to provide “improper benefits” to officials in African countries such as Guinea in exchange for obtaining business opportunities.

Reuters

Corruption. Alpha Condé, Rio Tinto and Simandou

Alan Davies, Rio Tinto
Alan Davies, Rio Tinto

The Simandou iron ore project continues to make headlines for accusations of corruption in the adjudication of mining licenses. A Rio Tinto executive, Alan Davies, is the latest shoe to drop. It was reported today that he has been suspended for his role in a bribery scheme that took place in 2011. The alleged fraudulent transaction happened thus  during president Alpha Condé‘s first year in office following his inauguration in December 2010. The article below names the main companies involved then in the Simandou project. It does not, however, indicate who received the  alleged $10.5m  payment. But Mediapart.fr reveals that it was François de Combret, and adviser to president Conde, a former deputy secretary general of the Elysée Palace, and an ex-associate of Lazard Bank.
Rio Tinto (Australia), Vale (Brazil), BSG Resources and Chinalco (Hong-Kong) had each a stake in the Simandou. The first three have been either forced out or decided to withdraw from the project, leaving Chinalco as the only current investor.

Tierno S. Bah


François de Combret
François de Combret

Global mining giant Rio Tinto has been plunged into a bribery scandal after discovering multimillion-dollar payments to a contractor relating to a project in Guinea, West Africa.

The FTSE 100 company has suspended Alan Davies, the executive in charge of its energy and minerals division, with immediate effect, as it investigates payments of $10.5m made to a consultant in relation to its giant Simandou iron ore project.

Mr Davies allegedly had accountability for Simandou in 2011, when the transactions were apparently made.

Rio said it became aware of email correspondence relating to the payments in August this year. Yesterday it notified the authorities in the UK and the US and “is in the process of contacting the Australian authorities”.

Debra Valentine, the executive in charge of Rio’s legal and regulatory affairs, has also stepped down from her role. She had previously notified the company of her intention to retire in May next year.

“Rio Tinto intends to co-operate fully with any subsequent inquiries from all of the relevant authorities,” the company said. “Further comment at this time is therefore not appropriate.”

Mr Davies, who is also a non-executive director at Rolls-Royce, only took charge of Rio’s energy and mineral group in July, in a broader restructuring implemented by new chief executive Jean-Sebastian Jacques when he took on the top job.

One of Mr Jacques’ first major decisions was to cancel development of the long-gestating $20bn Simandou project after deciding that low iron ore prices made the mine nonviable. The decision outraged the Guinea government, which had been banking on Simandou to provide a much-needed boost; the mine had been tipped to double the size of the country’s economy.

Last month Rio sold its 46.6pc stake in Simandou to Chinalco, a mining company listed in Hong Kong, for up to $1.3bn.

Simandou has long been dogged with controversy. It is believed to be one of the biggest undeveloped high-grade iron ore deposits in the world, but its inland location makes building the infrastructure to tap it hugely expensive. Iron ore is the key ingredient in steel.

Rio bought the concession 15 years ago, but lost the rights to half the lode in 2008, when the Guinea government transferred them to BSG Resources, owned by Israeli billionaire Beny Steinmetz.

The deal raised eyebrows not just for the relatively small amount that BSGR had invested in Simandou, but for the fact that company was a specialist in diamond, rather than iron ore, mining. BSGR subsequently sold half its stake to Brazilian giant Vale for an initial $500m, but both companies were ejected from Simandou after a two-year inquiry in Guinea found that BSGR had used bribery to gain the rights to the mine.

In 2014, Rio sued BSGR and Vale in the US, alleging they had conspired to misappropriate Rio’s half of the deposit in 2008. The case — which included claims that BSGR had given Guinea’s minister of mines a diamond-encrusted Ferrari — was dismissed last year after the judge ruled it had fallen foul of the statute of limitations. Both BSG and Vale denied any wrongdoing.

Analysts at Investec said the announcement it was a “surprise” given that Mr Davies had been touted as a potential CEO prior to Mr Jacques’ appointment. “While we do not expect this to have any impact on operations, it does cast a negative cloud over a company that considers itself above any such indiscretions. That said the company appears to be addressing this firmly.”

Rio Tinto’s shares were up 5.5pc amid a general rally in the mining sector following Donald Trump‘s US election victory.

Jon Yeomans
The Telegraph

Secrets No Longer Buried, Now Open

Beny Steinmetz
Beny Steinmetz

The Documents section of BlogGuinée now includes “Buried Secrets. How Beny Steinmetz, an Israeli billionaire, wrested control of one of Africa’s biggest prizes,” a 2013 New Yorker report on the Simandou iron deposit concession scandal.

During his first term in office, President Alpha Condé tried to dismantle the mining sector networks of corrupt intermediaries he found in place in 2010.  And, — with help from George Soros, Tony Blair, etc. — he fought Beny Steinmetz tooth and nail.… And his government has revoked the license of BSGR, the Israeli billionaire’s company.

Read (a) Soros Enmeshed in Bribery Scandal in Guinea
(b) Guinea Mining. Exploiting a State on the Brink of Failure
(c) Mining and corruption. Crying foul in Guinea
(d) High noon at the Guinea corral
(e) La belle Mamadie et les rapaces du Simandou
(f) Frenchman Cilins gets two years in U.S. prison for role in Guinea mine scandal

However, Mr. Condé’s policy and actions resulted only — and intentionally— in the replacement of previous go-betweens and “crooks” with his own henchmen —his son included. That’s the  preliminary — and valid — assessment from ongoing investigations against hedge funds giant Och-Davis by federal prosecutors in New York.

Read  Corruption minière : Afrique – USA

In other words, for Guinea, the more things change, the more they remain the same. Consequently, the country’s situation keeps worsening,  and the corruption and poverty get deeper.

Between Ahmed Sékou Touré (1958-1984), Lansana Conté (1984-2008), Moussa Dadis Camara (2009-2009), Sékouba Konaté (2010), and the sitting president, Alpha Condé, it’s Bonnet blanc et Blanc bonnet or “it’s six of one and half dozen of the other.”

Tierno S. Bah