Bloomberg News

Gaydamak Loses U.K. Case Against Leviev Over Angolan Diamonds

June 29, 2012

Arkady Gaydamak, owner of Beitar Jerusalem Soccer Club, lost his London lawsuit today against Africa-Israel Investments (AFIL) Ltd. Chairman Lev Leviev over millions of dollars from an Angolan diamond business.

A U.K. court ruled against Gaydamak’s claims to profits from the diamond venture they co-owned, saying there had been a signed agreement between the men settled in August 2011.

Gaydamak wasn’t “reliable,” Judge Geoffrey Vos said in his written judgment. “He was garrulous and unstructured in his answers and keen to act as his own advocate rather than focusing on the questions.”

The suit pitted two well-known Israeli businessmen against one another. Leviev, whose Africa Israel Investments was one of Israel’s largest real-estate companies before it refinanced debt in the wake of the 2008 global economic crisis, is also known for his diamond business. Gaydamak, 59, failed in his attempt to run for mayor of Jerusalem and is known for giving temporary refuge to Israelis who were living under rocket fire.

Gaydamak, who watched the trial by video link from Israel, said he invited Leviev to join the diamond venture after advising the Angolan government on licensing in 1998, according to legal papers outlining his claim. In 2000, they agreed to divide ownership of a new company, Ascorp, to export diamonds from Angola and share the profits.

‘Bamboozled’

“I was bamboozled into signing the settlement agreement,” Gaydamak said in an e-mailed statement today. He said that he will apply for permission to appeal.

Vos also criticized the 55-year-old Leviev’s “arrogance,” saying he “was re-writing the history, leaving some of the crucial characters out of the story.”

The chief rabbi of Russia, Berel Lazar, lost documents with which he was entrusted from an agreement with Leviev to share profits from the jewel-trading venture and lost them, Gaydamak told the court in May.

“I have maintained all along that we had an agreement,” Gaydamak said in his e-mail. “It was always surprising and disappointing that Mr. Leviev and Rabbi Lazar persistently lied in this regard.”

Gaydamak claimed he hadn’t received any commission, dividends or profits from the company since 2004. Proceeds from Ascorp average 3 million dollars a month, Gaydamak said.

Leviev “is obviously very pleased with this outcome,” according to an e-mailed statement from Alon Riza, a spokesman for Stewarts Law LLP, which represented Africa Israeli chairman.

Angola sold about $1 billion worth of diamonds last year. Revenue from the trade has funded violent conflict across Africa, including in Angola, according to human rights group Global Witness.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jeremy Hodges in London at jhodges17@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net


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