Millionaires in court over Angola diamonds
Leviev wins London court battle
A court battle between two multi-millionaires who fell out after making a fortune from Angolan diamonds ended on Friday when Arkady Gaydamak lost his bid to reclaim hundreds of millions of dollars he said he was owed by “king of diamonds” Lev Leviev.
The two are among a handful of buccaneering businessmen who have made fortunes in countries like Angola, Congo and Guinea, securing positions of influence that have helped their companies profit hugely from the continent’s rich natural resources.
Gaydamak, a Russian-Israeli tycoon, had argued he was entitled to commission and dividends worth about half Leviev’s Angolan diamond assets after the former partners agreed to split their business interests.
His argument rested on his claim there was a written agreement dated December 2001.
Leviev, an Uzbekistan-born Israeli with a home in London who made his name challenging diamond giant De Beers’ monopoly on the sale of rough diamonds, denied signing the agreement.
His lawyers argued the claims were compromised by a settlement agreement between the two in August 2011.
High Court judge Geoffrey Vos said in his judgment on Friday: “I find that the 2001 agreement was indeed signed by Mr Gaydamak and Mr Leviev, and was a valid and enforceable agreement.”
“But the parties entered a valid and binding settlement agreement which took effect on Aug. 6 2011, whereby each party released all claims against the other.
“Accordingly the claim will be dismissed.”
The case was the latest in a spate of high-profile disputes brought to London by billionaires from Russia and former Soviet republics, involving complex and opaque business dealings that have challenged British judges used to more traditional cases.
At one point in the trial, the judge told the defendant’s side “You are seeking to test this on traditional London (terms) ... the reality seems so far removed ... from what we are used to, that applying the same tests is unrealistic.”
Angola is one of the world’s most significant diamond producers and has long been attractive to traders and buyers.