Israeli billionaire to be tried over 'Guinea bribes'

Israeli billionaire Beny Steinmetz
The Israeli tycoon has previously denied any wrongdoing in obtaining mining licences in Guinea

Israeli billionaire Beny Steinmetz and two colleagues are to go on trial in Switzerland for allegedly paying $10m (£8.2m) in bribes in Guinea to win mining licences, prosecutors say.

A statement from Geneva’s prosecutor, Claudio Mascotto, said the payments were promised in 2005, three years before President Lansana Conte died, Reuters news agency reports.

They are accused of organising for the bribes to be paid to one of the wives of Mr Conte “to eliminate a competitor and have the contract for mining rights in the Simandou region allocated to Beny Steinmetz Group Resources”.

According to the AFP news agency, the prosecutor says the bribes were partly paid through Swiss bank accounts.

The tycoon and his company Beny Steinmetz Group Resources have previously denied any wrongdoing in the case.

In February this year, Guinea’s authorities lifted corruption charges against Mr Steinmetz and his firm after they relinquished rights to mine iron ore reserves in Simandou.

But the Geneva prosecutor continued investigations.

Guinea parents want new inquest into stowaway deaths

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Sabena went under in 2001 and has since been replaced by SN Brussels as Belgium's national airline

The family of two teenage boys who died in 1999 after stowing away in an aeroplane, have told BBC Afrique that their loss has left "gaping wounds" and they want a fresh investigation into their deaths.

Yaguine Koita,15, and his friend Fodé Tounkara, 14, travelled inside the Sabena airlines plane from Guinea's capital, Conkary, to Belgium. Their bodies were found in the undercarriage, along with a handwritten note addressed to "Europe's leaders" which said:

We sacrifice and expose our lives, because we suffer too much in Africa and we need you to fight against poverty."

Yaguine's father, Limane Koita, tells the BBC his heart is an "open wound" 20 years on, adding: "We did not see the bodies of our children. We saw the coffins but we do not know what they contained."

Reports at the time indicated that the teenagers' bodies had been on board the plane for up to 10 days, their decomposed bodies discovered by a mechanic who noticed the smell.

It prompted fierce criticism of the operator, Sabena, which has since been replaced by SN Brussels as Belgium's national airline.

"We really want to know how Yaguine and Fodé died," Fodé's elder brother, Sekou Tounkara, told the BBC.

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Guinea fury over 25% petrol price hike

Alhassan Sillah

BBC Africa, Conakry

Protesters in Guinea

Tens of thousands of Guineans of all ages have been protesting in the capital, Conakry, against the 25% rise in the price of fuel.

The pump price went up last week as the government said it could not afford to subsidise the imports further and was meeting an International Monetary Fund (IMF) obligation to remove them.

Protesters want the price to go back to its original price of 8,000 Guiean francs ($0.88, £0.67) a litre.

Guinea gets new PM amid political tensions

BBC World Service

Police officers clear a burning barricade on a street in Conakry in March 2018
Riots erupted in the capital Conakry and other cities in February and March after local elections

Guinea's President Alpha Condé has appointed Ibrahima Kassory Fofana as the country's new prime minister amid heightened political tensions.

Mr Fofana, an economist, replaces Mamady Youla, who resigned last week along with his government.

Analysts say he will need to relaunch the economy and diffuse tension following local elections which the opposition says were marred by fraud and rioting.

Mr Fofana, an ally of the president, will also face scrutiny from critics who think Mr Condé intends to change the constitution to remain in power.

Son of Guinea's first president charged with forced labour

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The son of Guinea's first President Ahmed Sékou Touré has been accused of enslaving a young woman for 16 years at his home in the US, before she managed to escape with the help of neighbours.

Mohamed Touré and his wife Denise Cros-Touré, who are both 57, reportedly brought the girl from Guinea to Texas when she was five years old.

Once in the US, they allegedly forced her to do housework, look after their children and subjected her to emotional and physical abuse, the US Department of Justice said in a press release.

The couple have been charged with forced labour. If convicted, they face up to 20 years in prison.

An investigator for the prosecution says the alleged victim was forced to sleep on the floor for years, and was taken to see a medical professional only once.

The investigator adds that the alleged victim was often shouted at or kicked out of the house without money, identification, or the ability to communicate in English.

One one occasion, the Washington Post reports that she was discovered sleeping on a bench by a police officer, who described her as “wearing dirty unkempt clothing and was very visibly scared and nervous,” in a police report.

He then returned her to the Touré residence, the newpaper says, suspecting she was just a runaway.

She is said to have finally escaped from the house in Southlake, Texas in August 2016 "with the help of several former neighbors," the Department of Justice statement adds.

The couple's lawyer denied all of the allegations, reports the Washington Post.

Scott Palmer, told newspaper it was "salacious allegations, fabrications, and lies”. He added that the woman was treated like a daughter.