A chief rabbi, Mossad and a dubious diamond deal


Behind the London legal battle over diamond profits between the Russian-Israeli businessmen Lev Leviev and Arakady Gaydamak lay a chain of what the judge called "extraordinary events".

Mr Gaydamak had sued Mr Leviev, claiming he was owed hundreds of millions of pounds from the export of diamonds from Angola as a result of a deal made in December 2001.

Although Mr Leviev denied having entered into a partnership with Mr Gaydamak, Mr Justice Vos - in a judgment issued last week after a three-week hearing - concluded that an agreement had been made.

However, the judge also ruled that Mr Gaydamak had agreed to drop any legal claims in a settlement reached in Angola last year. Mr Gaydamak had argued it was invalid because he had signed only in the belief that he would get money from Mr Leviev. The judge said that while he was "not reliable", there were "veins of truth" in what he said.

After the two men reached a deal in 2001 to split the proceeds from the diamonds, Mr Leviev deposited the only signed copy for safekeeping with the Chief Rabbi of Russia Rabbi Berel Lazar.

An unsigned copy remained in the hands of former top Mossad official Avi Dagan, who was advising Mr Gaydamak on security at the time.

According to Mr Leviev, however, the envelope given to Rabbi Lazar had nothing to do with diamonds but contained a pledge made in 2000 by Mr Gaydamak to donate $350,000 a month over two years to the Federation of Jewish Communities. In return, Mr Leviev would support Mr Gaydamak's candidacy to become president of the federation.

In a witness statement, Rabbi Lazar backed Mr Leviev's version of events and said that document must have been lost when his office moved later that year.

In his witness statement, Rabbi Lazar said he was "afraid to give testimony" to the court because last year he had been contacted by "several dubious characters, of Russian descent" who had threatened him if he did not co-operate with Mr Gaydamak.

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