(photo credit: SCOTT WINTROW / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP)
Relatives of Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev were arrested on Monday morning in connection with a massive diamond smuggling scheme.
Leviev’s son and brother were among six suspects arrested on suspicion of smuggling diamonds worth hundreds of millions of shekels to Israel. Also among the six was a veteran employee of one of Leviev’s factories in Russia, who returned to Israel six years ago and took advantage of his status as a returning resident to smuggle diamonds in the many suitcases he took with him, according to The Jerusalem Post’s Hebrew-language sister publication Maariv.
An Uzbek-born diamond magnate and Orthodox philanthropist who has been dubbed the “King of Diamonds,” Leviev moved to London from Israel in 2007 with his family.
The Mako news site reported that police will ask to investigate Leviev himself. His diamond company LLD said in a statement: “Mr. Leviev and the companies under his control act in accordance with the proper norms while adhering to the law. We hope that the matter will soon be clarified and the suspicions will prove to be baseless.”
The arrests came following an undercover operation by the Israel Police’s Lahav 433 National Crime Unit and the Tax Authority in collaboration with the State Attorney Office’s Taxation and Economic Department.
Police are questioning the suspects over allegations of money laundering, customs offenses, offenses under the Income Tax Ordinance, conspiring to commit a crime, false registration of corporate documents, fraud and other offenses.
Police believe the suspects each played a part in planning and smuggling diamonds into Israel over the course of several years, without reporting it to the relevant authorities.
The investigative units intend to carry out additional arrests both in Israel and abroad.
“The Israel Police
will continue to focus enforcement against severe economic crime, while operating intelligence systems and conducting joint investigations with other enforcement authorities in order to expose the perpetrators of the offenses,” a police statement said.
Attorney Eyal Bessarglick, who represents one of the suspects together with attorney Keren Berkowitz, said, “These are preliminary suspicions which we are certain will be refuted later on. Our client has nothing to do with the affair. He worked with the businessman more than six years ago and there is no evidence linking him to a criminal suspicion. We hope that the investigation will be concluded quickly so that our client can prove that he has nothing to do with the affair and the suspicions.”
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