French-Israeli diamond magnate held in Cyprus

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Israeli mining magnate Beny Steinmetz has been detained in Cyprus, facing extradition on a Romanian-issued arrest warrant, police said.

Steinmetz is at the centre of a case dating back several years relating to his involvement in a group allegedly trying to secure land rights in Romania illegally.

He has already faced arrest in some other European countries on the Romania-issued warrant but was cleared.

The foreign national was arrested at Larnaca International Airport on Thursday under a Europol arrest warrant issued by Romania; a police spokesperson told AFP.

He appeared at a Larnaca court on Friday for an extradition hearing scheduled to resume on September 8.

A Romanian court had sentenced Steinmetz in absentia to five years in jail in 2020 for setting up “an organised criminal group” in a series of land deals between 2006 and 2008 that cost Romania an estimated €135 mln.

“Steinmetz was temporarily held by the Cypriot authorities during his arrival at the Larnaca airport due to a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) issued by the Romanian authorities,” his spokesman said.

The 67-year-old billionaire was being held at a police station as the local Cypriot authorities were set to decide on how to proceed on the matter, the spokesman told AFP.

A Greek court rejected Romania’s same extradition request last year after Steinmetz was detained in Athens.

“Steinmetz welcomes the opportunity to be vindicated in one more European state against Romania, a country infamous for its disrespect to human rights,” the statement said.

“He is also confident that justice will prevail in Cyprus as well, confirming that the strong foundations of the EU’s moral and legal system will triumph against undemocratic practices such as those of the Romanian authorities.”

In a separate case earlier this year, Steinmetz was found guilty by a Swiss court of corruption linked to mining rights in Guinea, a decision his team said they would appeal at Switzerland’s highest court.

News of his arrest came as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu travelled to Cyprus for a trilateral summit with the Cypriot president and Greek prime minister on Monday. (source agencies)