Gaydamak loses to Leviev in London high court case

Trial looked at whether the two businessmen signed an agreement over a deal to export gems from Angola.

Arkady Gaydamak (photo credit: REUTERS)
Arkady Gaydamak
(photo credit: REUTERS)
LONDON – Russian-born Israeli businessman Arcadi Gaydamak has lost a case in London’s High Court against Bukharan-Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev that centered on profits from the Angolan diamond industry.
This trial, which played out in May and June of this year, looked at whether the two businessmen signed an agreement over a deal to export gems from Angola, one of the world’s biggest diamond producers.
Leviev denied signing an agreement with Gaydamak in December 2001 potentially worth hundreds of millions of pounds.
The case focused on whether there was a binding and enforceable agreement signed and entered into by both parties in 2001 and entrusted to Rabbi Berel Lazar, the chief rabbi of Russia.
Leviev consistently and strenuously denied that such an agreement existed, claiming the document was a pledge by Gaydamak to make charitable donations to the Jewish community in Russia.
Lazar, having eventually admitted that he had been given an envelope to look after, claimed to have either lost or destroyed it.
Justice Geoffrey Vos said in his ruling that the two men had made a pact but said that the loss of the envelope was “convenient but hardly coincidental.” He questioned why Lazar chose not to come to London to testify and “his unwillingness to give evidence by video link as many other witnesses did.”
The judge also upheld a settlement signed in August 2011 between the two in which Gaydamak agreed to drop all legal claims against Leviev, which was brokered by the Angolan government in Luanda.
Gaydamak said the settlement was invalid, as he signed it after he was led to believe by Angola’s Minister of State Gen. Manuel Hélder Vieira Dias ‘Kopelipa’ that he would be paid compensation by Leviev.
However Vos upheld the agreement, saying the settlement did not have any financial assurances.
“Gaydamak wasn’t reliable, he was garrulous and unstructured in his answers and keen to act as his own advocate rather than focusing on the questions,” Vos said in his written judgment.
However the judge acknowledged Gaydamak’s role in helping the Angolan Government gain control of the diamond industry at the height of the country’s civil war, thus securing the benefits of exports for the government and precluding their use by rebels.
In his ruling, the judge also noted that Leviev approached the case with a sense of “arrogance” and had effectively “re-written history” by questioning Gaydamak’s role in the restructuring of the Angolan diamond mining and export industry.
Gaydamak, who watched the trial by video link from Israel, said he plans to appeal.
“I have said all along that I was bamboozled into signing the settlement agreement as a result of the representations of Gen. Kopelipa on behalf of Mr. Leviev. Pending the decision to appeal, the court has recognized that I have told the truth throughout, it has recognized my immense contribution to the Angolan diamond mining industry and wider economic and political stability, and it has recognized that Mr.
Leviev and Rabbi Lazar have, to my disappointment, consistently lied throughout.
“I welcome the judge’s findings on those key points,” Gaydamak said.