Israeli businessman Beny Steinmetz has been found guilty of corruption in Switzerland in a dispute over the world's richest untapped deposits of iron ore.
Steinmetz, who made his name in the diamond business, was indicted in August 2019 by a Geneva prosecutor over deposits at the Simandou mine in Guinea.
On Friday, judges found him guilty of corrupting foreign agents and forging documents, sentencing him to five years in jail and a fine of $56million.
Steinmetz and two aides had been accused of paying, or having paid, $10 million in bribes to obtain exploration permits for Simandou and of forging documents to cover it up through a web of shell companies and bank accounts.
Beny Steinmetz, 64, a diamond and minerals tycoon, has been sentenced to five years in jail and fined $56million for bribing officials in Guinea in return for mining permits
Yves Bertossa, Geneva's chief prosecutor, is seeking a five-year prison term for Steinmetz and 50 million Swiss francs ($56.33 million) in compensation. The aides, a Frenchman and Belgian woman, face lesser penalties.
Swiss prosecutors allege Steinmetz and his aides won the mining rights by bribing Mamadie Toure, who they say was one of the wives of the former Guinean President Lansana Conte, between 2006 and 2010.
Steinmetz denied that he ever paid any money to Toure and his lawyer claimed she had no real influence in Guinea, but judges found otherwise.
Toure, who resides in Florida, could not be reached for comment. She was one of a dozen people called to appear at the trial. None of them attended.
Central to Steinmetz's defence was his claim that he was not involved in the day-to-day running of Beny Steinmetz Group Resources (BSGR).
He described himself as the owner and company ambassador but not the boss of the group that employs some 100,000.
'I am not BSGR,' the 64-year-old, who lived in Geneva until 2016, told the court. 'I didn't know Guinea and went there for the first time in February/March 2008.'
Bertossa rejected the defence argument and said the case represented 'a classic textbook case of corruption'.
'Today we have neither anyone responsible nor guilty, it's the theory of magic corruption. There is no corrupter, no corrupted,' he told the court.
The Geneva trial, held in an 18th-century courtroom stacked with 250 files of relevant documents, is one of many legal cases that have arisen from Simandou.
In February 2019, BSGR said it would walk away from the project as part of a settlement with the Guinean government, in which both parties agreed to drop outstanding legal action.
Rio Tinto, which held the original exploration rights to Simandou, has said it is pressing ahead with the project.
In an update this week, it said it was starting work, including on roadworks, and was carrying out technical studies.