Levayev's Namibia Concession Yields $3 Billion Diamond Find

Diamonds worth $3 billion were recently discovered in a part of a Namibian coast mining concession owned by businessman Lev Levayev. In an interview with Haaretz on Wednesday, Levayev said that in a 14,000 square-meter area where the Namibian government had granted him a mining license, 12 million carats in diamonds had been found so far.

"For you, diamonds are a black hole. They are something mysterious, more is hidden than is revealed. I have been a diamond producer from birth. I have been polishing diamonds since I was 16. Diamonds are one of the most complex businesses in the world," said Levayev.

He said a company he owns, Samicor, holds the second largest fleet of ships for underwater diamond mining in the world after the fleet owned by diamond giant De Beers. Levayev says his seven-story-high ships are equipped with robots weighing 60 tons that can reach the ocean bottom to mine diamonds.

On his relationship with De Beers, Levayev told Haaretz: "The De Beers monopoly told me in 1996 that it would stop working with me if I bought rough diamonds from Russia. They threatened to take away my right to buy diamonds from De Beers. Whoever doesn't buy from them can't make it and they thought they would close me down. I told myself I would not let anyone tell me how to run my business, I would not be dependent on a cartel. I gave up my right to buy from De Beers and I signed a contract with the Russians to supply me with raw materials. They believed in me, and the results can be seen today."

Levayev said he doesn't use his private plane to fly to New York. "I fly El Al to New York. An hour in my private plane costs $4,000 and the flight to New York costs $40,000 each way. Other Israeli business people, whose private planes belong to public companies, can afford that. I prefer to pay $5,000 for a first class ticket and not spend that money."