Israeli-Russian businessmen Lev Leviev and Arkady Gaydamak both claim to be the rightful beneficiaries of a diamond mining venture in Angola that could be worth approximately $1 billion.
The case began in London High Court on Wednesday. Leviev appeared before the court while Gaydamak gave his evidence via video link from Israel while he battles extradition to France and tries to appeal a tax fraud conviction, the Independent reports.
Gaydamak insists that he and Leviev signed an agreement about the mine 11 years ago and that they agreed that Leviev would hold Gaydamak’s share and income from the Angolan Diamond Selling Corporation Sarl. The document, signed because Gaydamak wanted to keep a low profile, was allegedly given to the chief rabbi of Russia for safe keeping. Leviev claims that no such deal was signed. Rabbi Berel Lazar has not been able to track down the contract in dispute.
During Angola’s civil war, Gaydamak supplied food and arms to the Angolan army that was attempting to seize blood diamonds the Unita rebels were using to fund the rebellion. Gaydamak set up a joint ownership with the state for exclusive rights to sell diamonds from Angola and allegedly approached Leviev to be the front man in the operation. Gaydamak alleges he received multimillion dollar payments from Leviev on a regular basis until the payments stopped in 2005.
Leviev refutes Gaydamak’s claims and the case continues, according to the Independent.