The Angolan diplomat
Arm in arms, but something may have soured
Arkady Gaydamak is one of the most influential businesspeople in Angola and one of the closest to the corridors of power. His ties to president Jose Eduardo dos Santos, dos Santos' daughter businesswoman Isabel, generals and high-ranking police officers trace back several years.
The close relationship garnered Gaydamak an Angolan diplomatic passport - in addition to French, Canadian, Russian and Israeli citizenship. He holds a title in the Angolan embassy in Moscow and travels the Russian capital in a Bentley with diplomatic plates.
Something may have soured, though. Diamond sources say Gaydamak has stopped exporting diamonds from Angola. The sources claim the Angolan government terminated a longstanding agreement with him due to suspicions that he had violated the terms of the agreement.
Be that as it may, Angola had already transformed the Russian Jewish immigrant to France from well-to-do, into a billionaire. Three years ago he himself estimated his fortune at $3 billion, in an interview with Haaretz.
His tremendous influence in Angola is evident in the fact that, just a year ago, he flew the new president of the state-owned Russian rough diamond exporter Alrosa to the Angolan capital Luanda in his private jet to personally introduce him to dos Santos.
Gaydamak recounts that he met dos Santos in 1992 through a business partner - now also sought by French authorities.
At the time, the Angolan government was struggling in a bitter civil war against UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi. Gaydamak and his partner brokered arms deals in which Russian and Czech weapons were sold to Angola, collecting fat commissions along the way.
Gaydamak bought Angola's national debt to Russia estimated at billions of dollars, in exchange receiving oildrilling rights and diamond export rights, two of the south African nation's most valuable assets.
With the government contracts in hand, Gaydamak brought Lev Leviev into the Angolan diamond sector. After getting involved in a dispute with Leviev, Gaydamak allegedly tried to push Leviev out of the region and brought Dan Gertler in about a year ago.
Several months ago, those two also became involved in a dispute, demanding tens of millions of dollars from each other.
Gaydamak says he now has mostly agricultural business ventures in Angola and is involved in the construction of a huge granary in the Luanda port, and fowl and fish farms. These businesses employ several dozen Israeli consultants.