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TRNN’s Shir Hever analyzes the financial ties that Jared Kushner has to the Steinmetz family, whose members have been accused of corruption in Africa

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AARON: It’s the real news. I’m Aaron Mate. Jared Kushner has major responsibilities in the White House of his father-in-law, President Donald Trump. One of his tasks includes finding a solution, the White House says, to middle east peace. Well, a recent report in the New York Times, raises new questions about Kushner’s potential conflicts of interest. A major backer of the Kushner family’s real estate empire, is the nephew of an Israeli billionaire, who’s now under investigation in the US, and other countries for corruption. Joining me to discuss this, is Shir Hever, Real News correspondent. Hello Shir. SHIR: Hi Aaron. Thanks for having me. AARON: So, talk to us about what this report revealed about Kushner and his ties to this family, that is being investigated for corruption. Shir: It’s of course not unusual that wealthy people have extensive contact with each other, and the fact that a Kushner family used a lot of financing from billionaire’s to bankroll their real estate empire, surprises no one. What Jesse Drucker, of the New York Times revealed however, is that particular group financing the Kushner family, is the Steinmentz, a group specifically Raz Steinmentz, and he’s the nephew of Benny Steinmentz. Benny Steinmentz is now has been arrested in Israel actually, and investigated by the police for alleged corruption crimes that he committed in Guinea, in Africa. His company, BSGR, which is Benny Steinmentz Group Resources, owns a lot of mines in Guinea, and made its fortune when Benny Steinmentz and his brother, Daniel Steinmentz, have together made this fortune in the diamond industry. Then they moved to mine other kind of resources and Daniel Steinmentz is now retired. He allowed his son to continue on, doing the business. His son Raz, so obviously this is a very close connection between the two. They are developing mines in Guinea, but the Guinean government is now accusing benny Steinmentz of bribing senior officials, in order to give them mining concessions, and this has been revealed by the Global Witness Organization, and is now investigated by the FBI, and led to the arrest of Benny Steinmentz. AARON: And so, if this uncle Steinmentz has a nephew, who is financially backing the family of Jared Kushner, and Jared Kushner is the top White House official, overseeing middle east peace, that means the Steinmentz family has a very friendly ear in the United States, at the top levels of it’s government. SHIR: Right. Right. This is of course not new. The Steinmentz family both Daniel Steinmentz, and Benny Steinmentz have already given extensive donations to Rudy Giuliani, from the Republican party back in 2007. But, now the kind of support that they gave to the Kushner family is mainly giving them loans. That means that the Kushner’s are in their debt basically. That certainly gives them the leverage. This issue is of course that the Steinmentz family, Benny Steinmentz lived most of his life in Belgium, the corruption cases in Guinea, and the money was mostly in Switzerland, and it’s investigated by the FBI, because the bank that was allegedly used to transfer bribes was in the US. There’s also been one of the Guinea senior officials wore a wire, and got records of the Steinmentz representative, Steinmentz family representative trying to get the Guinea government to destroy documents, so that further incriminates them in this business. The interesting thing is of course, how all this relates to Israel, which doesn’t have any of those mines in it. AARON: Well, explain that a little bit. SHIR: Yeah. The point is that, Benny Steinmentz. This is the point that is missing from the New York Times report. The New York Time report talks about the possible corruption, and whether indeed Benny Steinmentz, the uncle is directly related to the Kushner family, or is it only his nephew? That tie is not completely clear. Although, Benny Steinmentz recently moved his assets to the foundation of his brother, the father of Raz Steinmentz, so that kind of makes that connection. In order to avoid sanctions on the Guinea government. But, the thing is that Benny Steinmentz moved to Israel and he’s being investigated by the Israeli police, because I think he believes or he hopes, at least that, that might get him a way out of that problem. He hired, to defend himself the lawyer, Alan Dershowitz, who’s not a very well known expert on corruption laws, especially not African corruption laws, but Alan Dershowitz is a close, personal friend of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, and he’s a very well known propagandist for the Israeli government, and for Israeli policies. What Steinmentz is trying to claim through Alan Dershowitz, and through other channels as well, is that in fact this whole case against them, this whole corruption case, has been fabricated by George Soros, who’s a much bigger billionaire. He’s accusing George Soros of being sort of anti-Israeli, although this accusation is preposterous. George Soros supports various Israeli organizations, and Zionist organizations, but he’s a scapegoat for the extreme right. Steinmentz is saying, “They’re only after me because I’m Israeli.” This line of defense is very weak of course. This is exactly what puts Jared Kushner in a very problematic political position. Jared Kushner is now being drawn into this kind of politics, of using the Israel defense against crimes that have nothing to do with Israel, about these corruption cases. If he’s supposed to be mediator of the middle east peace process, then of course that prevents any chance of him doing kind of objective job. AARON: Yeah Shir. What’s funny about the George Soros defense is that it mirrors what they see in internet forums, that propagate conspiracy theories. It’s curious to see that being used here as the defense in a corruption case involving a billionaire. SHIR: Yeah. Actually Brietbart news editor, Peter Schweizer just recently wrote a piece … The way that Breitbart news, the alt right new platform has portrayed it, is to say that actually George Soros is funding Kushner, so to try to create a kind of equivalency is it Soros is now actually forcing, or trying to sway the Trump administration into the far left, in the anti-Israeli far left. That is, of course ridiculous, but this also shows that they believe in Breitbart news that this kind of conspiracy theory can actually have an effect on people. I think the fact that Alan Dershowitz also agrees to represent Benny Steinmentz in this case, shows that he also believes that if he makes the case that Benny Steinmentz was only accused because of, sort of anti-Israeli sentiment, organizations like Global Witness are actually some kind of anti-Israeli conspiracy, and that he could some how get out of being convicted. AARON: Well, a very interesting story that adds a new layer to the web of corruption, and conflict of interest issues, surrounding this unusual Trump White House. Shir Hever, Real News correspondent. Thanks for joining us. SHIR: Thanks very much for having me. AARON: And thank you for joining us on the Real News. END ————————————–

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Dr. Shir Hever grew up in Israel and now lives in Germany. He has been reporting on Israel/Palestine stories for 16 years, and for the Real News specifically since 2016. He’s the author of two books and many articles, and is a committed member of several Palestine solidarity groups.