Cyprus Court: Beny Steinmetz to Wait in Jail for Ruling on Extradition

Published: 19 October 2023

Beny Steinmetz Cyprus LarnacaBeny Stenmetz arriving at the court in Larnaca. (Photo: Christodoulos Mavroudis, OCCRP)

By Christodoulos Mavroudis

Lawyers for mining entrepreneur Beny Steinmetz have failed to secure his conditional release from detention in Cyprus, as the country’s Supreme Court prepares to rule on his extradition to Romania.

Steinmetz was sentenced to five years jail-time in Romania in absentia in December 2020, for conspiring with the grandson of a former king and others to corruptly obtain former royal lands worth over US$100 million. It is one of two bribery convictions the businessman is contending with, over separate scandals – the other being connected to iron ore rights in West Africa.

Cyprus originally arrested Steinmetz on August, 31 on the basis of a European Arrest Warrant issued by Romania. He was freed on bail, but detained again on October 11, after a district court ruled in favor of Steinmetz’s extradition.

Steinmetz’s lawyers appealed that decision immediately and asked the court to release him on bail until the ruling.

At Cyprus’s Supreme Court, lawyers for Steinmetz cited his philanthropic activities and the troubles in his home country Israel as reasons for releasing him on bail, but this was rejected by the three-judge panel.

“The appellant remains detained and the court reserves its ruling,” judge Alexandros Panayiotou ruled on Thursday in the windowless, ground-floor courtroom. Steinmetz, unshaven and in a blue suit, had arrived at the court accompanied by three police officers but without handcuffs.

The Supreme Court is to decide on the extradition by the end of this month.

Steinmetz’s arrest in Cyprus came despite earlier victories in battles against his extradition to Romania.

In November 2021, he was arrested in Athens on the basis of the same European Arrest Warrant, but was allowed to leave the following March when the Athens Court of Appeal ruled against his extradition. The Athens court accepted that Romanian jail conditions were inhumane, and that one of the Romanian supreme court’s three justices had not properly taken her oath as a judge, according to a translation of the judgment seen by OCCRP. Interpol also canceled a “red notice” arrest warrant for Steinmetz in October 2021.

Steinmetz is also awaiting the decision of Switzerland’s supreme court in a separate corruption case, over bribery to obtain mining rights in the West African nation of Guinea. Geneva’s appeals court upheld his bribery conviction on that matter in April this year. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison, plus a suspended sentence of the same length, which he appealed. No date has been given for the Swiss court’s verdict.