No doubt about it. Lev Leviev wants to make a big splash in his new pond, London.
What does $70 million buy you in the way of a London house? If you’re a pal of Russian mobsters and the 210th richest man in the world, it buys you a 17,000 sqaure foot home and $100,000 bulletproof door, for one. And that’s not all:
The seven-bedroom house in the exclusive north London district of Hampstead boasts a $1.5 million stone staircase constructed using 150-year-old carving techniques and an indoor swimming pool with gold-plated mosaic tiles.
The Palladian-style home also features a gym, sauna, ballroom and cinema, a private hair salon and a one-tone bathroom basin carved from a single piece of white Iranian onyx…
Once installed in his new home, Leviev will be protected not only by the bullet-proof front door but by 25 security cameras and a high-tech alarm system that can be controlled remotely – from a yacht in the Caribbean if necessary.
In his front garden is a topiary bush that cost $40,000 to shape, and should he get cold there is a $200,000 hand-carved stone fireplace in the living room.
This will be the new home of Lev Leviev, a former Uzbek immigrant to Israel who learned the diamond trade from the ground up and eventually figured out, with the help of the repressive Angolan government, how to break the DeBeer’s monopoly. Ze’ev Chafets says in a NY Times profile that Leviev is worth as much as $8-billion. Leviev has just announced that he’s moving his business operations from Israel to London. His new digs have to be the most expensive coming out party anyone’s ever conceived.
It appears he’s leaving Israel because it taxes its citizens’ income wherever it is earned while Britain does not tax a foreigner’s income earned outside the country. Several other Israeli tycoons have moved for the same reason and into the same London neighborhood reports the Jerusalem Post:
His new neighborhood in Hampstead is home to a number of wealthy Israelis like himself, who were drawn to live there due to British law, which does not require foreigners to pay taxes on income earned abroad. Among them are 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 the real estate developer, Sammy Shimon.
Like his friend and former Russian mobster, Roman Abramovich (he’s too rich and powerful now to be a mere mobster), who owns the Chelsea football club, Leviev owns an Israeli football club. But this isn’t what’s most interesting about Leviev.
Leviev is an ardent supporter of the settler enterprise. Not just an ideological supporter, but a financial backer and major investor in West Bank settlements. We’re not talking about illegal outposts and a few shipping containers on a hilltop here. We’re talking about full-blown towns worth hundreds of millions of dollars as real estate investment opportunities. And Leviev is a key financial backer of the Land Redemption Fund, a front for settler land purchases which uses Arab buyers to convince reluctant Palestinians to sell their farmland. He and Abramovich were honorees at an Elad fundraiser two years ago. Its purpose is to Judaize East Jerusalem.
You’ll also recall that the diamond czar just opened a glittering new emporium on Madison Avenue and invited lots of New York celebrities to the opening. Ruth Westheimer, Susan Sarandon and Isabella Rosselini are among those who crossed an Adalah picket line to view the baubles. Jewish Voice for Peace and Palestinian villagers whose land was expropriated for a Leviev settlement project wrote to Sarandon asking her to repudiate Leviev, but she refused. I’m sorry but I’ll never view a Susan Sarandon movie the same now that she’s been morally tone deaf in this situation.
When Leviev came to Israel as a teenager he enrolled in a yeshiva but found it wasn’t for him. But he’s embraced Chabad with gusto and is the single largest funder of its Russian operation, which controls the state sponsored Jewish communal organization.
And can someone tell me why he needs a bulletproof door? Is he afraid that a poor Palestinian farmer is going ride his donkey all the way from Bilin to London to spray his home with bullets? Or is he afraid one of Roman Abramovich’s enemies might try to pop him? Isn’t it a pity that that farmer from Bilin can’t expropriate LEVIEV’S mansion instead of the other way around?
For more images of Leviev’s obscenely ostentacious new digs visit this Telegraph photo spread.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.