Who was telling the truth in $1bn diamond trial? No one…

Judge attacks Gaydamak and Leviev in a case that laid bare the 'lawlessness'

After an extraordinary case with a plotline and cast list suitable for a John Le Carre novel, a Russian-Israeli multi-millionaire emerged yesterday as the loser in a $1 billion claim against a rival dubbed the “King of Diamonds” following a bitter dispute over a mining venture in Angola.

Arkady Gaydamak, 60, – who brought the case in London despite being a fugitive from justice in Israel – was told he had signed away his rights to the business after a long-running and tumultuous relationship with Israeli businessman Lev Leviev.

Uzbekistan-born Mr Leviev – who has a £35m house in Hampstead, north London - made his vast wealth from four decades as an internationally-renowned diamond trader. The case shone a light on how a handful of foreign players have made fortunes from exploiting Africa’s natural resources.

The dispute centred on a contract allegedly drawn up between the two men designed to share the proceeds of a the mining venture set up during Angola’s civil war – but was lost or shredded after it was handed over to Russia’s chief rabbi for supposed safe-keeping.

In a sometime damning judgement, High Court Judge Mr Justice Vos cast doubt on the word of both men, criticising Mr Leviev, 55, for re-writing history and arrogance and saying that Mr Gaydamak’s evidence could not be relied on.

“I did not find him a reliable witness. He was rather garrulous and unstructured in his answers … He could certainly not be relied upon as regards the details of his evidence,” he said in the 70-page written judgement.

The dispute grew out of Angola’s long-running civil war when the government was trying to wrest control of blood diamonds that Unita rebels were using to fund their cause. Mr Gaydamak supplied arms to the Angolan leadership and also security services, run by a former head of Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad.

Mr Gaydamak, the father of former Portsmouth FC owner Sacha Gaydamak, said he signed an agreement in 2001 for Mr Leviev to act as his “front-man” for a venture in the world’s fifth largest diamond producer. He said that he was seeking a lower-profile after an international warrant was sought for his arrest during an inquiry by the French into kickbacks and illegal arms deals with Angola.

He had sought to split the proceeds 50-50 with Mr Leviev and had been due about $3 million a month but had received nothing since 2004. Mr Leviev said that no deal had been signed and a settlement was agreed in 2011, which ended their dispute.

In his ruling yesterday, Mr Justice Vos cast doubt on Mr Leviev’s claims that no deal had been signed. “I did not find Mr Leviev an entirely reliable witness. He displayed an arrogance, even a contempt, for Mr Gaydamak, which ill-became him since he had been so closely involved with him in 1999 and 2000.”

He added: “I think his denial of any partnership arrangement of any kind was simply implausible and frankly unbelievable.”

However, he said that Mr Gaydamak’s responses showed the “lawless” nature of his dealings in Angola before the 2001 deal.

The case is the latest series of complex business disputes brought to London by billionaires from Russia and the former Soviet states. Mr Gaydamak gave evidence via video link from Israel because he feared arrest on a European Arrest Warrant after he was sentenced in France to 36 months in jail for money laundering and tax evasion.

Mr Justice Vos said that the deal signed in 2011 – in the presence of General Kopelipa, ostensibly the prime minister of  Angola - effectively settled their dispute and dismissed the claim.

In a statement after the ruling, Mr Gaydamak announced his intention to appeal. “I have said all along that I was bamboozled into signing” the agreement, he said.

In a statement from his solicitors, Mr Leviev was said to be “obviously very pleased with this outcome.”

News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Extras
indybest
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Travel
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
travel
Arts and Entertainment
music
Sport
football
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home