Guinea hails Frenchman's arrest over graft claims

Guinea on Tuesday welcomed the arrest in the United States of a French-Israeli for obstruction of a grand jury investigation into alleged bribes paid for mining rights in the west African nation.

"The Ministry of State for Justice of the Republic of Guinea takes note of the arrest in the United States on the evening of April 14, 2013 of Frederick Cilins, an individual of French-Israeli nationality," said a statement from the Guinean presidency.

It said Cilins, 50, had been charged with "witness tampering, obstruction of justice and attempted destruction of evidence" in the probe into the acquisition of mining rights by the Israeli group BSGR.

"This arrest and the investigation of which it is a part supports the policy of transparency, and fighting corruption and the impunity that currently leads the Guinean government," Justice Minister Christian Sow was quoted as saying.

"This demonstrates that it is no longer possible to get your hands on natural resources with impunity in Guinea," he said.

Guinea is home to the immense mineral wealth -- iron, diamonds, bauxite and aluminium -- but these resources seldom benefit its residents, more than half of whom live in poverty.

The United States announced the arrest of Cilins on American soil on Monday, and his detention until his arraignment on April 18.

According to the US Attorney's office in New York, a grand jury investigation has been ongoing since January into bribes allegedly paid by an unidentified mining company to former Guinean officials to win concessions.

"From at least March 2013 to the present, Cilins has repeatedly attempted to obstruct the grand jury investigation in conversations and meetings he has had with a cooperating witness, the former wife of a now deceased high-ranking official in Guinea," the attorney said.

FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge George Venizelos: "As alleged, Cilins attempted to buy evidence he sought to destroy," FBI assistant director George Venizelos said.

"The destruction of evidence was in furtherance of Cilins's effort to obstruct an investigation into a bribery scheme. In effect, he was willing to commit bribery in an effort to cover up a bribery."