Leviev Buys the Times Building; Maybe Time to Start Covering Him?

It seems unlikely that the Israeli diamond merchant Lev Leviev's purchase of the old Times building will inspire the paper to remedy its coverage of him, but here's hoping.

As Leviev (through the firm Leviev-Boymelgreen) has bought up and developed large swathes of Brooklyn, the city press, almost without exception and led by the Times, has covered it as a normal real estate story. So maybe buying the building was a kind of a dare to the Times to look into the cheerful, bootstrap tale of how a guy who made a few dollars in the happy and transparent diamond industries of Africa and the former Soviet Union now owns a big piece of New York.

Here, for example, is the Times profile of Leviev's ex-partner, Shaya Boymelgreen, who was the face of his Brooklyn projects, and his partner in the legal sense. In another sense, though, he's basically Leviev's employee.

[Update: The partnership split up, and Leviev is taking the New York properties himself. The investor in the Times building is his own company, Africa Israel.] 

It's Leviev's money. And nobody's asking where the money came from.

So where did it come from? This Forbes story is the best single source.

There was the murky post-Soviet diamond sell-off, in part, where Leviev was able to swoop in and help the government liquidate its stock.

Also, Angola, in another large part, where Leviev secured control of the diamond industry with the transparency you'd expect of a natural resources transaction in one of the world's poorest, most war-torn countries. According to a report from the Center for Public Integrity, a watch-dog group, this involved connections to an alleged arms-dealer, and to the country's president.

There are also stories from Namibia, where Forbes also that Leviev got rid of some troublesome partners by forcing their joint company into bankruptcy and buying its assets.

And, in the department of nice friends, Leviev is also close to Vladimir Putin, and took over the formal leadership of the Russian Jewish community to the benefit of his Hasidic allies, as the JTA reported.

Described by his leading Russian Jewish rival as "a dinosaur from the period of Jewish oligarchs" he offered this astonishing explanation for why other oligarchs failed while he prospers:

"The problem is that we Jews often try to take advantage of our power and attack the authorities because of personal interests."

So now that this guy owns huge, historic pieces of New York...can we please start covering him?