A Frenchman with ties to billionaire Beny Steinmetz and his BSG Resources Ltd. should be sentenced to more than three years in prison for interfering with a probe of bribes allegedly paid to mine the world’s biggest untapped iron-ore deposit, the U.S. said.
Prosecutors charged Frederic Cilins, 51, with trying to pay Mamadie Toure, the fourth wife of Guinea’s late President Lansana Conte, to lie to investigators and to turn over documents for Cilins to destroy. Cilins pleaded guilty in March to a single count of obstructing a U.S. investigation.
“The obstruction in this case lasted one year, spanned several continents, involved several people, and could have significantly undermined, and even ended, the government’s investigation if the defendant had managed to buy” Toure’s silence, prosecutors said in papers filed July 18 in Manhattan federal court.
Prosecutors have said Cilins had a “very close personal relationship” with Steinmetz, Israel’s wealthiest person, who controls BSGR. The U.S. said Cilins was negotiating with Toure on behalf of BSGR and Steinmetz when he was arrested April 14, 2013, at the airport in Jacksonville, Florida. BSGR has denied all wrongdoing.
Cilins asked U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III to sentence him to time served — the 15 months he’s already spent in federal custody since his arrest — when he’s sentenced July 25. Prosecutors argued Cilins should get a sentence within the range advised by U.S. sentencing guidelines, 37 to 46 months in prison.
Since about January 2013, a grand jury in New York has been investigating possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, or FCPA, and criminal money-laundering in connection with the alleged scheme to bribe Guinean officials. The FCPA allows U.S. prosecutors to charge people and companies doing business in the U.S. with corruption in other countries.
Cilins didn’t agree to cooperate in the government’s investigation as part of his guilty plea.
In the court filing, the government countered Cilins’s argument that he should be given leniency in part because he’s a devoted family man who takes care to teach his children about the economic hardships facing people in Africa.
“But he deliberately obstructed an investigation into allegations of massive corruption — the kind that often seriously harms the very people whose hardships he described,” prosecutors said.
The case is U.S. v. Cilins, 13-cr-00315, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
Bob Van Voris