Only a few weeks after the Angolan government announced that
Israeli tycoon Lev Levayev will be its exclusive marketer of
diamonds, a report in Ha'aretz claims that it wants to
cancel its new agreements.
The troubled African nation of Angola exports close to $1
billion a year in raw diamonds of high quality. In a war that
has dragged on for years, rebels have seized some of the rich
diamond mines and are using their output to finance their
struggle. The nations of the world do not support the actions
of the rebels, but so far they have found channels to market
Only a few short weeks ago, Angola announced that Ascorp, a
joint venture between the Angolan government, Israeli
businessman Lev Levayev (the owner of Africa Israel
Investments), the Belgian firm Omega and a Russian investor,
will exclusively market all its official output.
According to the report, the government is negotiating with
the American Tempelsman company, which was one of the largest
diamond companies operating in Angola at the end of 1999.
Levayev has brought uncut diamonds from Angola to Israel this
year through the new consortium. Officials in the industry
stressed that all these diamonds have been accompanied by
documents authenticating the source of the diamonds as the
Angolan government, and not the rebels.
In January the Angolan government canceled all previous
marketing arrangements with diamond companies operating in
Angola and restricted the sale of diamonds through the
government concern of Ascorp, exclusively.
It appears that Levayev may become a major player in the
world diamond market. In addition to his arrangement with
Angola, there is persistent speculation that he will sign a
deal with the Russians when De Beers' agreement comes to an
It is hoped in Israel that the new arrangements will be
beneficial to the diamond industry there, since the diamonds
will pass through fewer hands.
Lev Levayev was in the news three years ago when he bought
control of the Africa-Israel investment company, a major, old-
line Israeli real estate development firm. One of his first
actions was to try to close the newly-opened Ramat Aviv
shopping center on Shabbos, since he is an observant Jew.
At the time, hostile business commentators raised doubts
about Levayev's ability to manage a company like Africa-
Israel in general, and the Ramat Aviv shopping complex in
particular. In the interim, Africa-Israel has done well, and
Ramat Aviv is the most profitable shopping mall in Israel,
despite (or because of) its being closed in Shabbos.