November 6, 2018 / 10:56 AM / a month ago

Billionaire's son held in Israeli diamond smuggling case

(The Nov. 6 story officially corrects to delete reference to one of the suspects in the case, in accordance with court order)

FILE PHOTO: A trader inspects a diamond during a show at the trading floor of Israel's Diamond Exchange (IDE) in Ramat Gan near Tel Aviv, Israel August 29, 2013. REUTERS/Nir Elias/File Photo

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - The son of Israeli billionaire diamond magnate Lev Leviev is among suspects arrested in Israel in connection with a diamond smuggling scheme, according to court documents released on Tuesday.

The case focuses on Leviev’s company, LLD Diamonds, a leading global manufacturer and marketer of polished diamonds, Police have said they expect to make more arrests, both in Israel and abroad.

Leviev’s son Zevulun is among six suspects accused of involvement in a smuggling operation that has brought about 300 million shekels’ ($80 million) worth of diamonds illegally into Israel since 2010, according to a transcript of a custody hearing held on Monday.

Israel is a world centre for diamond cutting and polishing, with one of the biggest exchanges in the world, at Ramat Gan.

Lawyers representing Zevulun Leviev in a statement said the allegations against him were “baseless” and his arrest appeared to be a tactic to “illegitimately pressure his father”.

Lev Leviev, who was born in Uzbekistan and according to the court documents is currently believed to be in Russia, built his fortune in diamonds and property.

LLD said in a statement it had no knowledge of the alleged smuggling.

“Mr. Leviev and the companies in his control operate in accordance with the proper norms while adhering to the law. We hope that the matter will be clarified soon and the suspicions will be proven baseless,” it said.

Leviev also owns 48 percent of the real estate firm Africa Israel Investments , once one of Israel’s biggest conglomerates, whose business has struggled since a downturn in the Russian real estate market. ($1 = 3.6847 shekels)

Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Kevin Liffey

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