Tycoon Gaydamak suing Russian chief rabbi, diamond magnate
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Tycoon Gaydamak suing Russian chief rabbi, diamond magnate

Beitar Jerusalem owner says Berel Lazar, Lev Leviev reneged on contract; demands NIS 750 million in damages

Arkady Gaydamak visiting a Beitar Jerusalem training session in September 2008 (photo credit: Anna Kaplan/ Flash90)
Arkady Gaydamak visiting a Beitar Jerusalem training session in September 2008 (photo credit: Anna Kaplan/ Flash90)

Russian-Israeli tycoon Arkady Gaydamak on Thursday filed a lawsuit against businessman Lev Leviev and Russia’s Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar for some NIS 750 million ($198 million) in damages for allegedly violating the terms of a contract, Channel 2 reported.

In the lawsuit, lodged with the Tel Aviv District Court, Gaydamak said Lazar was appointed trustee for a deal between him and Leviev in 2001. Under the agreement, Leviev became partner to 50 percent of Gaydamak’s diamond assets in Angola.

Gaydamak claimed that in 2005, Leviev stopped transferring his share of the money. When Gaydamak asked Lazar for a copy of the contract, the chief rabbi said it had been destroyed, the lawsuit said, and later offered conflicting accounts.

Gaydamak maintained that his losses from the deal topped NIS 1 billion ($256 million).

Leviev’s attorneys denied the allegations, and said the lawsuit was “not worthy of a serious response.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks with Russia's Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar in the Jewish Museum in Moscow, Thursday, June 13, 2013. (photo credit: AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks with Russia’s Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar in the Jewish Museum in Moscow, Thursday, June 13, 2013. (photo credit: AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

“The false claims by Gaydamak, that have no basis and are not even remotely connected to reality and which are a publicity stunt at the expense of Mr. Leviev’s good reputation, will be dismissed by the authorities. Under these circumstances, Gaydamak is not worthy of a serious response,” a statement said, according to the TV station.

No stranger to the legal system, Gaydamak — the former owner of the Beitar Jerusalem team — was sentenced in absentia to six years in prison by a French court in 2009 for masterminding the trafficking of Soviet-made weapons to Angola during its civil war in the 1990s. His sentence was reduced on appeal in 2011 to three years’ imprisonment for laundering assets obtained through tax fraud. France in 2013 asked for his extradition.

Gaydamak, who also holds French citizenship, was arrested November 19, 2013 in Zurich on a separate matter relating to a financial dispute with former French soccer international Luis Fernandez, Geneva prosecutors said. He was also indicted on money-laundering charges in Israel, which he later paid off as part of a plea bargain.

The Israeli tycoon has also donated millions of dollars to various Israeli organizations, and ran an unsuccessful mayoral campaign in Jerusalem in 2008.

AP contributed to this report.

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