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Gulf News: Arab League may blacklist Levant Jewellery stores

By Abbas Al Lawati

To view original article, published on 3rd July in Gulf News, click here

The Arab League is considering blacklisting companies belonging to Israeli businessman Lev Leviev and that of his agent in the UAE, the pan-Arab body said just days after Unicef severed ties with the billionaire jeweller.

The move came following a decision by the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) to reject all partnerships and financing from Leviev in protest against the continued building of Jewish colonies in the occupied West Bank by companies belonging to Leviev.

Establishments under the Leviev Group of Companies (LGC) have been involved in the construction of at least four Jewish colonies in the West Bank, including the controversial Ma’ali Adumin which divides occupied Jerusalem from the West Bank. The colonies are illegal under international law.

The head of the Arab League’s Central Boycott Office (CBO) in Damascus told Gulf News that the body had contacted its office in Dubai to confirm media reports of Lev Leviev’s plans to open at least two branches of his self-titled diamond boutiques in Dubai.

A Gulf News report on April 30 quoted an official from the Department of Economic Development in Dubai saying Leviev did not have a licence to operate in the emirate. The stores would have opened here through Leviev’s agent Arif Bin Khadra, who owns Levant Jewellery LLC. Levant Jewellery stores in Dubai already sell Leviev diamonds.

The Coalition for Justice in the Middle East (Adalah-NY), a Jewish-Palestinian advocacy group which is leading the international boycott campaign against Leviev, hailed the decision by Unicef.

“That Unicef would refuse further support from Leviev was never really in doubt [because of his] violations of international humanitarian law… It is absurd that Leviev was able to burnish his image through his support to Unicef,” said David Bloom, Adalah-NY spokesperson.

Mohammad Bu Sal’a, the head of the CBO, told Gulf News in a phone interview from Damascus that the body had contacted the Israel Boycott Office (IBO) in Dubai to enquire about Lev Leviev’s interests in the emirate and connections between Levant and Lev Leviev.

He said, however, that the inclusion of companies on the blacklist is the last step in a long process which includes measures to persuade the company to sever contacts with the Israeli entity or individual. “This is in the beginning stages now since we need to confirm the media reports. A final decision could be taken as late as November. It’s not a simple process.”

If blacklisted, Levant would be the first UAE-based company to be placed on the list, said Bu Sal’a.

It is unclear which of the three-tier Arab boycott of Israel Leviev or Levant could fall under due to Lev Leviev’s extensive network of companies registered in various countries.

Most Arab countries only follow the primary boycott, which prohibits citizens of Arab League states from entering business contracts with Israel or its citizens.

Mattar Al Sayyah, the head of the IBO in Dubai confirmed that the office was looking into Bin Khadra’s dealings with Leviev but said he could not comment further until the inquiry ended in mid-July.

Bin Khadra’s lawyer Bader Sulaiman sent Gulf News a document he said he presented to the IBO in Dubai, detailing Levant’s partnerships.

The document stated: “…the long established international brand Leviev, owned and controlled by KLG Jewellery LLC, would be offered to customers in the Emirate of Dubai, UAE, exclusively through the outlets solely owned, controlled and managed by Levant LLC.”

Speaking to Gulf News, Sulaiman indicated that any decision taken against Levant or KLG by UAE authorities could result in legal action in the US by “the chamber of commerce and lawyers in New York.”

“[This] is a very, very serious question that they are asking now. I know they are thinking with a view of litigation but I hope it won’t go that far,” he said.

He noted however there was no way of telling who the shareholders of KLG were because it is a private company, but added it was irrelevant because it is “100 per cent US-registered.”

Gulf News has however seen records at the United States Patent and Trademark Office revealing that the Leviev brand is owned by LGC Holdings USA, LLC, a member of the Leviev Group of Companies [LGC] based in Ramat Gan, Israel.

On being asked for details about the ownership of the boutique, a Leviev public relations representative sent Gulf News a press release issued by the company to announce the opening of the store in Dubai.

The press release referred to Lev Leviev as the chairman of Leviev, quoting him commenting on the opening of his store in Dubai: “It is the next step for the evolution of our brand as Dubai is another epicentre of what we are witnessing in the world today…”

It is absurd that Leviev was able to burnish his image through his support to Unicef.”