Police said to reject terms set by diamond magnate Leviev for return to Israel
TV report says there will be no guarantees the billionaire can leave Israel if he returns for questioning over huge diamond smuggling case
Police have rejected a list of conditions sent by lawyers for diamond magnate Lev Leviev for the billionaire businessman to return to Israel for questioning in a massive diamond smuggling probe, a TV report said Saturday.
“Leviev will be interrogated like any other suspect, and according to the needs of the investigation,” a police source told Hadashot TV news. “He will not get any advance agreements, neither regarding the conditions of his interrogation nor guarantees he can leave Israel at its conclusion.” the source said.
The source added that police have made clear that the investigation into the smuggling ring will continue, even if Leviev’s interrogation is delayed.
According to a letter from Leviev’s lawyers obtained by Hadashot news and broadcast Friday, Leviev, who currently lives in Russia, “will make himself available to investigators at his residence overseas, or he could come to Israel.”
“During the questioning he will remain under conditions of house arrest and will deposit a bond to ensure his participation in future investigations,” the lawyers reportedly proposed.
In return, they wanted a commitment from Israel Police that Leviev can “return to his work abroad where he will be available to come back to Israel for further questioning with a suitable notice.”
It had previously been reported that the authorities wanted to question Leviev but that the tycoon was refusing to return to Israel.
The letter said Leviev was eager to clear his name.
Earlier this month, it was revealed that Leviev’s son and brother had been arrested, along with four others, in connection with a smuggling operation that brought hundreds of millions of shekels’ worth of diamonds into Israel hidden in suitcases.
The alleged smuggling case was cracked with the aid of one of the suspects who turned state witness after he was stopped six months ago at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport carrying a diamond worth a million shekels ($270,000), the Globes website reported.
According to Channel 10 news, police had been considering Leviev’s extradition from Russia, where he recently moved from London.
Born in the then-Soviet republic of Uzbekistan, Leviev moved to Israel at age 15 but has lived in London for much of the past decade. He is a major supporter of many Jewish causes, including Chabad-Lubavitch, the Hasidic sect that focuses on outreach to Jews around the world.
The case took a dramatic turn this week when a woman being investigated in the probe died after falling from a building in an apparent suicide.
According to authorities, Mazal Hadadi, a bookkeeper with Leviev’s diamond firm LLD, died after jumping from the 10th floor of the Diamond Exchange Building in Ramat Gan Tuesday.
The alleged suicide shined a critical light on investigators looking into allegations of diamond smuggling with reports indicating that Hadadi, 42, had been pressured by police despite her relatively junior role at the company.
Her husband Kobi Hadadi told the Kan public broadcaster Thursday that he did not believe his wife was capable of committing suicide, and alleged that there may have been foul play in her death.
According to Hadadi, his wife left work Tuesday afternoon, and ran into a friend, who said she seemed “normal and was heading home.” After that, she returned to work and fell from the building.
After the alleged suicide, LLD claimed it had information suggesting that investigators had subjected Hadadi to severe pressure and threats that caused her serious mental distress, Hadashot News reported.
In a letter, the company charged that an investigator had called her just half an hour before she was found on the sidewalk beneath her office window.
A police statement said that while “we regret the tragic results of the incident which took place at the exchange in Ramat Gan,” the force would not comment further for reasons of privacy and because the probe into the cause of Hadadi’s death was reaching a climax.
It added that, “Any attempt by interested parties to link the tragic case to the professional management of the investigation suggests a lack of familiarity with the facts and is likely to mislead the public.”