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Meet Lev Leviev, the billionaire who lost his sparkle in Cannes jewellery heist

  • @gillian_orr

The Carlton Intercontinental hotel on the exclusive Promenade de la Croisette in Cannes was the setting for an extraordinarily brazen diamond heist at the weekend, in which a lone gunman strolled into a jewellery exhibition taking place at the hotel and stuffed a suitcase with millions of pounds worth of Leviev diamonds before walking out. The owner of Leviev diamonds, Lev Leviev, is yet to comment on the theft. Apart from being a billionaire with an amazingly alliterative name,  just who is this wronged bling merchant?

The Soviet-born mogul got involved with the diamond industry shortly after his family emigrated to Israel when he was 15 years old. He first worked as an apprentice in a diamond polishing plant, learning how to cut diamonds, before setting up his own plant.

Leviev has made his fortune with an eclectic business profile; he owns everything from diamond mines in Angola to a string of convenience stores  in Texas.

He has also been busy snapping up high-profile property in America, such as the former New York Times building. In interviews, he is quick to point out his philanthropic efforts, which are mainly Jewish causes.

However, his companies have never been far from controversy. His mining companies in Angola and Namibia, and the private security firms they use, have been accused of numerous unsavoury practices, by human rights organisations. Equally controversial are Leviev’s investments in the construction of settlements in the West Bank. 

One thing’s for sure, Leviev won’t be pleased with the weekend’s events. And the latest news that the value of the jewels stolen has been raised from £34.5m to £88.5m after a more complete inventory is only likely to upset him further.