A woman who was questioned as part of an alleged diamond smuggling case involving hundreds of millions of shekels worth of precious stones jumped to her death Tuesday from the Ramat Gan Diamond Exchange building.
The woman worked at a diamond company owned by Russian billionaire Lev Leviev, who is a prime suspect in the case, Hadashot television news reported.
In the past few days the woman, who was not named but described as a mother of three, faced investigators probing the case, the report said.
Leviev’s LLD Company confirmed in a statement that the woman was one of its workers and vowed to act to protect the rights of those being questioned by police.
“With great shock and regret we received the notification on the terrible loss of a worker in the company,” LLD said. “We will take all measures in our power in order to assist in investigating her death in order to put an end to the serious phenomenon of the rights of those investigated being trampled on and the irreversible damage caused by the drive to create headlines.”
According to Hadashot news, the woman was a junior accounts manager and had been put under pressure by the investigation.
Police said in a statement that they are acting with “the necessary sensitivity” in the case.
“We regret the tragic results of the event that took place in Ramat Gan. The Israel Police is constantly acting with the necessary sensitivity, while strictly observing the dignity and rights of suspects and interrogees, alongside taking various investigative actions intended to bring perpetrators of an offense to justice.”
The force added that out of respect for the privacy of individuals it does not usually comment on procedures of an ongoing investigation. However, the statement offered a response to the claims by LLD that suspects’ rights were being abused.
“Due to the notice published on behalf of the company involved in the police investigation, we see fit to note that the details presented in the notice are subject to material inaccuracies,” police said.
Leviev’s son and brother have been arrested in connection with the smuggling operation. Leviev himself is reportedly being sought by authorities for questioning over the case — which was first made public earlier this month — but he is refusing to return to Israel from Russia, according to reports.
Zevulun and Moshe Leviev were among six suspects held on suspicion of smuggling. The pair had run a diamond facility owned by Lev Leviev and the remaining four suspects held senior positions in his company. The remand of all six suspects has been repeatedly extended by the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court.
Leviev’s enterprise would hire couriers who packed the diamonds into condoms and then inserted them into their bodies, the Hebrew-media Ynet website reported last week citing details from the case. Donning suits, they posed as businessmen and managed to pass Israel border control without raising suspicion.
The diamonds — worth some NIS 300 million ($81.4 million) — were then sold illegally in Israel, without paying taxes. They were also smuggled into other countries, according to the investigation.
Police and Tax Authority officials believe Leviev played a role in the sting, according to a report last week from the Walla news website, which did not specify what he is suspected of. Police and prosecutors haven’t yet decided whether to ask Russian authorities to extradite Leviev or request permission to conduct the investigation on Russian soil.
More arrests in Israel and abroad are expected, according to authorities.