Mahmoud Thiam: Guinea's $200m Technocrat from UBS

Issue 106, October 2014

Continued from Page 2 ➤

Rio has accused him of hosting dinners between Beny Steinmetz, Guinea’s former president and Vale’s then chief executive, Roger Agnelli. “A guy can marry a former hooker and only discover years later that his wife used to be a prostitute,” Agnelli has since said of his dealings in the country.

Rio says Thiam took a $200m bribe from Steinmetz, using the proceeds to buy a country estate and an apartment in Manhattan. As minister, he took to speeding a Lamborghini around Guinea’s capital Conakry, according to reports, collecting suitcases of cash from corporate jets and distributing them to military leaders.

Testing the Water

Thiam chuckles at the charges, but is clearly perplexed. Guinea’s former president never set foot in his house, he says, and the pair have never had dinner together. The flat in Manhattan was meanwhile paid for in October 2006.

BSGR has been repeatedly accused of “flipping” its half of Simandou to Vale, construed as proof of corruption, though Rio has also admitted it was in negotiations with Vale, holding a string of meetings in New York.

Most bizarre, is that Thiam was not even mining minister when Rio publicly announced it had been stripped of its rights, nor when they were awarded to BSGR. The ministers responsible for the decision went unnamed in Rio’s charges because they have since returned to power under the presidency of Alpha Conde, Thiam contends.

Information & Belief

Rio’s evidence appears to rest on a report by one private detective, a former CIA operative, Stephen Fox. Thiam says his rubbish has been raided by Fox and believes he is under surveillance.

Accusations in Rio’s legal papers are repeatedly fronted by the caveat, “On information and belief...”, a legal escape clause that exempts Rio from defamation if its allegations are found to lack substance. It has also lowered the bribe it says Thiam received to at least $100m, raising questions as to the evidence on...

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“A guy can marry a former hooker and only discover years later.”

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