Israel's richest man buys $70m. bulletproof house in London

Lev Leviev leaves Tel Aviv for London to avoid paying Israeli tax.

leviev lev 88 224 (photo credit:)
leviev lev 88 224
(photo credit: )
Lev Leviev, Israel's wealthiest man, has left Tel Aviv for the UK to avoid paying taxes in Israel, according to a British newspaper. Leviev, said to be worth an estimated $6.5 billion, officially became a British resident on January 1 and has settled in the wealthy suburb of Hampstead in northwest London. The Independent speculated on Tuesday that the move to London came because "wealthy foreigners" are not asked to pay tax on income earned overseas. "In Israel, they are liable for tax on all their income, no matter where it is from," the article said. It added that another motive could be a dispute over his 2002 tax bill. The newspaper said Leviev's neighbors in Hampstead, where he has bought a $70 million bulletproof house, include "several other mega-rich Israeli tycoons who prefer UK tax rates." Listed were Zvi Meitar, the founder of one of Israel's biggest law firms; Benny Steinmitz, a diamond dealer and property tycoon; Yigal Zilka, head of Queenco Leisure International; and Sammy Shimon, a real estate developer. Over the last year, Leviev has spent most of his time in London, according to Dalia Azar, a spokesman for Leviev in Tel Aviv. She said that the real change was that his wife Olga and their two youngest children, aged 15 and 13, will now be moving with him. "Over the past few years he has spent so much time overseas, particularly in London, and so little time in Israel, that he now simply wants to spend more quality time with his wife and younger children," Azar said. Azar denied the move was meant to take advantage of the British tax law on overseas income. His seven other children will remain in Israel, including his 18-year-old son Shmaya, who will soon enlist in the IDF. Tzvia, his eldest daughter, will now look after his business interests in Israel. Tuesday's Daily Telegraph newspaper reported that the 17,000-sq.-ft. house is equipped with a nightclub, a cinema and an indoor swimming pool decorated with gold-plated mosaic tiles. The house also has a gym with a steam room, as well as a hair salon, sauna and spa bath. The house is equipped with the most up-to-date technology available, including infrared cameras, lights, music, electronic doors, heating and air conditioning that can all be monitored or adjusted by remote control, the Telegraph reported. The family room can be transformed into a cinema at the touch of a button, while the pool room can be converted into a ballroom. "Visitors will pass through the £50,000 front door and be confronted in the entrance hall by a £750,000 stone staircase," the article reports. "The drawing room contains a £100,000 carved stone fireplace." Leviev is renowned as the man who singlehandedly broke the cartel controlled by the multinational diamond company De Beers by buying up diamond mines in Russia, Angola and Namibia. It is said that one-third of all the diamonds sold anywhere in the world are cut and polished by his company LLD, Israel's largest diamond company. Leviev arrived in Israel from Uzbekistan at age 15 in 1971, along with his family, who are strict Bukharian Orthodox Jews. Soon after, he left school and became a diamond-cutter. Ten years ago, he bought a controlling interest in Africa-Israel Investments, Ltd., from Bank Leumi and has built the company - which has worldwide holdings in property, hotels, construction, energy, communications and textiles - into Israel's fourth-largest investment corporation. In the last year, Leviev has opened a jewellery shop on New York's Madison Avenue and bought the former New York Times building for $525m., increasing his wealth by some 50 percent.