BSG Resources Says Grand Jury Evidence of Guinea Bribery is Forged
By Douglas Gillison | June 27, 2022 4:46 pm

Mining company BSG Resources Ltd. says a document before a federal grand jury in New York that appears to link one of its senior managers to bribery in Africa is a forgery.

Asher Avidan appears in this image from a video recording made in Guinea and posted to the Internet by Global Witness.

Just Anti-Corruption reviewed a copy of a memorandum of agreement that was provided to federal investigators by a cooperating witness in the probe. That cooperating witness has been identified as Mamadie Toure, who was one of the wives of the late dictator of the Republic of Guinea, Lasana Conte.

The Feb. 28, 2008 French-language “protocole d’accord“ is apparently signed by BSG Resources President Asher Avidan and Toure. In the memorandum, BSG Resources Guinea, a local subsidiary, agrees to provide 5 percent of the shares of blocks 1 and 2 of the Simandou mining concession in southeastern Guinea to a company controlled by Toure.

The grand jury is investigating allegations that this agreement was a bribe to get Toure to influence the award of the lucrative Simandou concession to BSG Resources.

BSG Resources says on its website that it won an exploration license for blocks 1 and 2, covering 142 square miles in the Simandou region, in December 2008.

If genuine, the document would draw a line from the suspected corruption to the highest levels of BSG Resources’s management. Since January, a federal grand jury has been investigating whether people associated with the company paid bribes, in potential violation of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, to win a slice of the world’s largest untapped iron ore reserve, valued at more than $50 billion.

An elaborate smear?

However, BSG Resources said Tuesday that Avidan’s signature had been forged on the document reviewed by Just Anti-Corruption. The company said there was no basis for any corruption allegations against it. Instead, BSG Resources claimed to be the victim of blackmail.

“BSGR maintains its position that the allegations of bribery and corruption against the company are completely untrue and based on documents that are not genuine,” the company said through a spokesman. “Mr. Avidan did not sign the agreement that you refer to. His signature has been forged. The documents that BSGR has so far seen, provided by the Government of Guinea, consist of nothing more than slightly amended versions of falsified contracts which were used earlier in an attempt to blackmail the company.”

BSG Resources said Tuesday that Guinean officials had refused to help the company authenticate the relevant papers.

“BSGR has requested that the Government of Guinea provide the so-called ‘originals’ of the relevant agreements to its counsel so that they can be subjected to forensic examination, but the government has so far refused to respond,” the company said.

“Without this examination being done, the case against BSGR is so obviously lacking in substance that it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that it is politically motivated,” the company said.

Just Anti-Corruption also reported last week that an unnamed co-conspirator, identified in an FBI affidavit as CC-1, is the Franco-Israeli diamond billionaire Beny Steinmetz, the owner of BSG Resources. Steinmetz has not been charged and denies wrongdoing.

French agent in a panic

Guinean President Alpha Conde last week told The Wall Street Journal that British authorities were assisting the American investigation. Federal prosecutors this month also told a federal judge in Manhattan that Israeli police had provided information on the movements of Frederic Cilins, a French agent for BSG Resources who was arrested in Florida in April and charged with attempting to obstruct the work of the grand jury.

Frederic Cilins appears in the same video published by Global Witness.

Federal prosecutors say Cilins attempted to pay Toure to hand over potentially incriminating documents to him so that he could destroy them. After she agreed to cooperate with the FBI in March, Toure wore a wire to a meetings in March and April with Cilins in April that were also under physical surveillance by the FBI, according to the Bureau’s affidavit.

Cilins was apparently desperate for Toure to destroy the documents, according to translated transcriptions of surveillance recordings released in court.

“This must be destroyed — urgent, urgent, urgent… You must destroy this very urgent — very, very urgent,” Cilins is quoted as telling Toure in one secretly recorded conversation.

In another passage, Cilins describes an alleged co-conspirator, now known to be Steinmetz, as directing the destruction of the documents. ”I went specially to see him, to have talk about all of this very clearly,” Cilins tells Toure on the recording. “He told me [...] ‘I want you to destroy those documents.’”

The company last week said Steinmetz was not aware of any wrongdoing under FBI investigation and had not been the subject of any allegations supported by evidence.

FBI interest

Just Anti-Corruption could not authenticate the document it reviewed. However it precisely matches the description of a document cited by the FBI in an April affidavit as part of the evidence supporting charges against Cilins.

That affidavit identifies the signatories as the unnamed cooperating witness (now known to be Toure) and a representative of the company under investigation who is given the pseudonym “Individual-1.” In the purported original seen by Just Anti-Corruption, that signatory is Avidan.

The FBI also used the pseudonym “Individual-1″ to identify the signatory of a separate Feb. 27, 2008 “commission contract” in which BSG Resources Guinea allegedly agreed to pay $2 million to a company owned by Toure and to “persons of good will” who had helped win the Simandou concession.

Global Witness reported in April that it had seen a contract matching this description that was apparently signed by Avidan and in which BSG Resources agreed to pay “four million dollars as a commission,” distributed in two $2 million halves, for obtaining the rights for blocks one and two. The Financial Times likewise reported in April that it had also seen this document.

Global Witness said the London law firm Mischon de Reya had been retained by BSG Resources and had attempted “to force us to give up our source material.” According to Global Witness, a video posted by the organization to the Internet shows Avidan, Cilins and other company representatives publicly joining with Toure in announcing plans to develop the Simandou concession in 2006, a time when it was still purportedly licensed to the Anglo-Australian miner Rio Tinto Group.

Previous coverage by Just Anti-Corruption:

Unnamed ‘Co-Conspirator’ in BSGR Probe Said to Be Israeli Beny Steinmetz
Monday, June 17, 2022
BSGR Agent Suggests Obama OK’d Mining Company Bribery Probe
Friday, June 14, 2022
Prosecutors Say Flight-Risk Cilins Should Stay in Jail
Friday, June 7, 2022

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