Lev Leviev’s son and brother were among six suspects arrested on suspicion of smuggling diamonds worth hundreds of millions of shekels to Israel, the Jerusalem Post reported. Also among the six was a veteran employee of one of Leviev’s factories in Russia, who returned to Israel six years ago and took advantage of his status as a returning resident to smuggle diamonds in the many suitcases he took with him, according to The Jerusalem Post’s Hebrew-language sister publication Maariv.
Included in the half-dozen people that authorities had detained for questioning under caution on Monday are a pair of Leviev’s relatives, and four others who are or had been involved in his companies in Israel and Russia. Police have asked the court to extend the detention of the six suspects.
Police said in a statement that the suspects “conspired, planned, and operated for a number of years smuggling diamonds into the State of Israel worth hundreds of millions of shekels in violation of the law and without reporting to the competent authorities.”
Known as the “King of Diamonds”, Leviev fittingly owns a substantial diamond outfit that operates around the world. He made his name undercutting the De Beers diamond cartel, striking his own deals with diamond-producing countries like Russia and Angola. He owns high-end diamond jewelry boutiques around the world, and large jewelry chains in Europe.
Leviev is also the controlling shareholder of Africa Israel Investments, a real estate and construction company with headquarters in Israel.
A source near Leviev said he may return to Israel voluntarily for questioning, according to Haaretz. A police representative told the Israeli newspaper, “This is an investigation that began at the end of March 2018. The criminal offenses are attributed to all the suspects in the operation, in the framework of their work with LLD, with the exception of one suspect. The offense includes 81 million dollars (300 million shekels).”
Added an attorney for one of Leviev’s family members, “Is it true that the facts of this investigation were leaked and published in the last few days?”
Leviev’s diamond company, LLD, responded in a statement: “Mr. Leviev and the companies under his control are acting in accordance with the proper norms, while adhering to the law, and we hope that the matter will soon be clarified and the suspicions will prove to be baseless.”
The arrests “followed the capture of a smuggling “mule” at Ben-Gurion International Airport some months ago,” Haaretz reported. “That triggered a joint police and customs investigation, following which the state suspects that for years, people working for Leviev were involved in smuggling diamonds worth tens or possibly hundreds of millions of shekels (in total) into Israel.”
By Howard M. Riell
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