Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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8 Adar II 5760 - March 15, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Angola Seeks To End Diamond Deal With Levayev

by Yated Ne'eman Staff

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 their production.

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 end.

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.

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