Hearts: The Transnational Crime. Click for detail
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Diamonds: Crime at the federal level. Click for detail
Spades: Crime at the regional level. Click for detail
Born July 30, 1956 in Tashkent, Uzbek SSR, in a family of Jews - the Sephardim, Hasidim by religion. His father, Avner Levaev was an employee of trading network, the leader of the Hasidic community, the spiritual leader – a zaddik.
In 1972, Avner and Lev Levaev were chased by Soviet law enforcement agencies under the guise of illegal trade in consumer goods and antiques. In the same year the family traveled to Israel.
Then diamonds at $ 200 000 (data «Forbes») were smuggled, according to other sources those diamonds were fake, which put the family in an extremely difficult financial situation; then a state program of assistance to returnees and support of Hasidic community helped.
In Israel, Levaev whose general education consisted of junior secondary school # 91 in Tashkent continued his studies as an apprentice of diamond cutter in the studio "Zotar" in the town of Kiryat-Malachi.
In 1974 - 1976 Levaev served in the IDF (The Israel Defense Forces) in the Signal Corps.
After serving in the army of Israel, Levaev settled his own diamond business, which intensive development was contributed significantly by a successful marriage (1976) on the daughter of an influential businessman who had been also specializing in this industry. Currently, the family of Olga and Lev Levaev has nine children; some of them are also involved in the family business.
In 1986 Levaev was awarded the best entrepreneur of the diamond industry in Israel.
In 1987 he became site holder of «De Beers».
In the period 1986 - 1990 he acted as the representative of «De Beers» in Russia, Israel, Belgium and Ireland.
In 1989, the delegation of specialists Glavalmazzoloto accompanied by representatives of the Soviet secret police, visited Israel to choose a worthy partner for the first joint lapidary business in the USSR. The choice was made in favor of Levaev.
JV “Ruiz Diamonds "(participants: Glavalmazzoloto USSR & Levaev) was registered in 1989
In 1990 he began equipping the plant.
In 1991, the plant produced its first products. In the same year in connection with the collapse of the Soviet Union Glavalmazzoloto ceased to exist. After some time, Levaev became the sole participant of the project.
In spring 1995, relationship between Levayev and «De Beers» got seriously cracked. Levaev was removed from the number of «De Beers» sight holders.
In 1996, ZAO “Kam – Crystal" was registered in Perm (participants: 51% of the regional administration, NP “Uralalmaz", a number of Perm enterprises, 49% of Levaev).
In 1997, Levaev bought from the Bank Leumi le-Israel the controlling stake of a diversified holding Africa - Israel. Later on cooperation of one of the largest Israeli banks and the Levaev Group became even closer - the son of the President of the Bank Leumi Galia Maor - Ron Maor joined the management team in the corporation by Levaev.
In 1997, Levaev (through the company DIUMONTY) became the holder of 18% GRO "Katoka” (Angola). Some time later, Levaev (1999) began to monitor all diamond exports from Angola through a shared venture with the Angolan Government "Askorp”.
During the period of 1998 - 2005 he acquired a substantial stake in Namibian company Namko, which was leading diamond mining in Namibia's offshore fields, and South Africa; he created a new polishing business in India, China, Angola, Namibia, Armenia, Russia, Ukraine, and signed an agreement on cooperation with the manufacturers of diamond jewelry and trademark owners networks of world-class - Bvlgary and Stern, and even attempted to create his own jewelry brand «Levaev». In those years Levaev also succeeded in building relationships with Russian producers of rough diamonds: "Ruiz Diamonds” became the largest site holder of ALROSA and almost a quasi-monopoly buyer of diamonds mined by JSC" Diamonds Anabara” (a joint venture of ALROSA and administration of the Anabar district in Yakutia). Another Russian lapidary plant, controlled by Levayev - OOO “Almy Diam” bought diamonds from the Yakut mining company OAO “Nizhnelenskoe”.
In 2000, Levaev created the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia (FJCR), headed by Rabbi Berel Lazar. Thus he deprived the Russian Jewish Congress (RJC), led by Vladimir Gusinsky of an exclusive right to represent the Jewish community of Russia.
In 1992, Joint Venture Mining Company "Katoka" was established for the development of the Angolan diamond fields called Katoka. The state company ALROSA owned 32.8% stake in the joint venture, 18% was controlled by Levaev through the Dutch Dumont Financing Company. Since then all diamonds mined in Angola had to be sold only through Angolian Selling Corporation (ASCORP). Representatives of ALROSA were confident that almost 25% of the corporation had been controlled by Levaev. In such an arrangement of ALROSA was perceived as a serious blow to the image of the company.
ALROSA was especially proud of Katoka mine, as it linked its future to the mine's subsoil. ALROSA became interested in Angola; then there was a civil war because of which De Beers left it in 70's. ALROSA decided to get settled in the deposit rink Katoka. It was like an exit to a world level for the company. And then Levaev entered in the joint venture by buying a 18% stake. They said that ALROSA lacked the money and therefore agreed to accept Levaev.
After this, the Government of Angola took an unprecedented step - it canceled all previous agreements on the diamond trade in their country. Since then, ALROSA had been mining diamonds - and giving them to Levaev. The foreign press in Angola linked this victory of Levaev with the support of the military and the KGB. The Western press also wrote openly that in 90's Levaev organized a "private channel through which the Russian government had been reselling large illegal shipment of diamonds for cash receiving."
In 1998, Afrika Israel Investments Ltd., which board of directors was headed by Levaev, bought shares in the Russian investment group “CentreInvest” - it was the first educational alliance with an Israeli company in the Russian stock market. By that time, Levaev had already been one of the largest players in the diamond business; basically, it is due to his activities in Russia. In November 1997, his company Levaev International Diamonds (LID) due to expanding in the Russian market became one of the founders of the Permian Russian-Israeli lapidary plant "Kama-Kristall”. In addition, "Ruiz Diamonds” - the largest enterprise in Russia producing diamonds established with the participation of LID – for three years had been retaining the right to buy from the Gokhran (State Depository for Precious Metals) 20% of jewelry Permian diamonds. The prosperity of "Ruiz Diamonds" in Russia was attributed to the fact that it had always had a strong lobby in Roskomdragmet (the Russian Federation Committee for Precious Metals), Gohran and other state structures.
However, that was because of the close ties with Russia the South African company De Beers, controlling the world diamond market, in 1995 removed the company from the ranks of their sight holders, thus Levaev had to buy diamonds for cutting only indirectly, i.e. 10-15% more expensive than from De Beers. Company representatives did not comment on the exception of Levaev.
Perhaps the reason for the decision of De Beers was the fact that Levaev created problems for the company in Africa in the mid 90's. At that time the diamond-producing regions of Angola had been controlled by UNITA rebels, who attempted to overthrow President Dos Santos. To get money for weapons, the rebels threw diamonds on the market. In order not to lose its control over the world prices, De Beers had to buy them. In 1998, the UNO imposed sanctions on the purchase of diamonds from Angolan rebels, and De Beers was forced to stop buying them. And in 1996 Levaev paid for 16% of the largest Angola's diamond mine, which the government had fought off the rebels, and started guarding it. Then president gave him an exclusive right to purchase Angolan diamonds.
Another field of struggle in between Levaev and De Beers became Namibia. The country decided to develop its own cutting industry, and in 2000 forced the manufacturers to provide local factories with raw materials. At first De Beers refused, but later softened its stance. Levaev also used the situation to the fullest. In 2000 he bought 37% shares of Namibian Minerals Corp. (Namco), then initiated its bankruptcy and bought all of its concessions.
In 2001, the press became aware of the details behind the scenes of the events associated with Levaev’s struggle to Permian "potassium Baron” Dmitry Rybolovlev for the Ural diamond deposits. Levaev-controlled enterprise OOO "Edelweiss" filed an application for licenses search on three diamondiferous areas of the Perm region, two of which had also been claimed by the company “Uralkali” of Dmitry Rybolovlev. Obviously, Levaev became interested in mining in the area due to the wording of the law "On Subsoil" coming into force, by which the one who discovered deposit was licensed to develop it without any competition. Before the tournament diamond-producing was considered to be a purely state matter, 98% of the deposits had been developed by the state ALROSA.
As a result, next year, both Levaev and Rybolovlev received licenses to develop fields including those disputed lands, which had been claimed by the both of them, and nobody had got them then, so the authorities had exposed them to the competition.
Levaev's interests in the Perm region laid also in a mine "Uralalmaz", which had been a national enterprise by 2002, unless its director Boris Protasov got retired. Then, Levaev decided to take control over the company; thereto he created the JSC "Uralalmaz", 50% of which belonged to the mines and to the plant "Kama-Kristall”. Such property redistribution caused indignation of Protasov, who was left with 1% in NP Uralalmaz. He claimed that upon a dismissal the employees of the company were supposed to receive the full price of their shares. NP “Uralalmaz" through court required to oblige Protasov selling the 1% stake in the mines, and the court satisfied the claim, but Protasov still refused to sell it. After that, "Uralalmaz" through arbitration wrote off the interest from the personal account of Protasov. Protasov considered that a payback by Levaev for Protasov had not let him in the national enterprise.
In 2006, Levaev's name became surfaced during the investigation of illicit export of unrefined diamonds from Russia, which was conducted by the department to combat international organized crime of the Israeli police together with the Russian Federal Security Service. There were suspicions that Levaev had been exceeding the diamond exports quota with a help of surrogates. In general, the actions of Levaev - a citizen of another state - threatened the sovereignty of Russia. However, it never grew into anything more that a suspicion.
In 2008, Jacob Vaynrot - a prominent Israeli lawyer - was questioned in the case of the former tax inspector Gush-Dan, Yehoshua (Shuki) Vita. Vita was suspected that thanks to him Levaev, and some other businessmen like Arkady Gaydamak, Cherney, as well as crime boss Zeev Rosenstein bought or sold real estate on "more favorable" conditions, as well as received benefits in the taxation of their income. The investigation was initiated in 2006 by YaHBAL (Department of Police to investigate international and especially grave crimes) in Israel. Levaev also spent 15 hours answering the questions of investigators of the case.
Levaev categorically denied receiving any tax benefits.
In 2009, journalists began to talk about serious debts that Levaev was confused with. In particular, it was reported on a debt of almost $ 2 billion; Africa Israel reached an agreement of its restructuring with bondholders. It was assumed that lenders would get about 33% of the company, and the share of its main owner Levaev would be reduced to 52%. It was assumed also that Mr. Levaev was to pay the debt with shares of subsidiaries of the company Africa Israel, among which AFI Development (built in Russia) could appear. One of the options supposed that the bond holders could get 16% of the Russian developer.
It became known about the problems of Africa Israel in the end of last year; then Mr. Levaev had to lay all the 74.83% of the company he owned on his credits. According to Africa Israel, in late 2009 the total debt amounted to 8 billion shekels, i.e. more than $ 2 billion, of which 7.5 billion shekels were in the form of bonds, the rest – of bank debts. During the spring and summer, the company sold several real estate development assets in Israel, in particular the two trading centers and office center. IDEX Online, with reference to the statement of Mr. Levaev in August, wrote that the assets had been sold for $ 1.04 billion
Later on it was reported that Levaev was considering the opportunity of selling the Moscow Jewelry Factory for $ 200 million. That would allow him to repay the debts to Israeli banks. Thus, he failed to deal with creditors without any sales of assets. Supposedly, most of the funds gained from the sale of the Moscow Jewelry Factory (controlled by Mr.Levaev) could be directed to the banks: Bank Leumi Israel Discount Bank, Mizrahi Tefahot Bank, and First International Bank of Israel for the debts’ payment.
The very next day after that message Levaev denied the possibility of selling the Moscow Jewelry Factory, as well as other diamond jewelry assets in Russia.
In February 2010 it was reported that in order to pay the debts of its parent structure Africa Israel Investment, the Israeli businessman Lev Levaev would have to give a share in his development business in Russia to bondholders. 17,7% of AFI Development would cover only a portion of the 2-billion-debt of the businessman, so Lev Levaev would also have to give up 25% of Africa Israel Investment.
The restructuring plan also assumed that Africa Israel Investment would convert the bonds of 13 former loans to bonds of the two new releases - the first one for 1 billion shekels, short-term (for two years), and the second one - for 3 billion shekels (for 16 years). In addition, the remaining portion of the debts Lev Levaev’s corporation would pay in cash (550 million NIS), and with shares of Africa Properties (owned real estate in Israel and Europe). Total value of shares in AFI Development and Africa Properties was to cover the debt of 1.2 billion shekels. As they clarified in Africa Israel, the proposed plan would "completely restructure the debt of the corporation”.
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