Diamond dealer who fled to South Africa left debt of €360 million

Diamond dealer who fled to South Africa left debt of €360 million
Photo by Edgar Soto on Unsplash

Erez Daleyot, a Belgian-Israeli diamond trader who went bust and took his private jet to South Africa ten years ago, left behind debts of no less than €360 million, a court in Antwerp heard.

Before his sudden flight, Daleyot was one of the most prominent diamond dealers in the city of diamonds, with one in three of the world’s traded diamonds passing through one of his companies. He was also a representative of De Beers, the world’s biggest dealer.

His home was a €7.5 million villa in the suburb of Wilrijk, with indoor and outdoor swimming pools and €2.5 million worth of security equipment.

In the diamond quarter of Antwerp, he was a familiar sight as he cruised to and from the markets in his trademark Bentley. He also made regular trips to South Africa, New York and Tel Aviv in his private jet.

His art collection was estimated to be worth €26 million, with works by Miró, Warhol and Jeff Koons.

Then suddenly in 2014 De Beers cut him off, and his own businesses quickly fell apart as a result of the loss of that connection. Bankruptcy soon appeared on the horizon and when a court-appointed administrator appeared in his extravagant offices, which took up a whole floor of the Antwerp World Diamond Centre, there was hardly anything left.

“I only found 350 removals boxes with worthless items and some loose documents,” she told the court.

And also many letters, especially from KBC, ABN Amro and the British ICICI Bank, stating that all accounts were blocked.”

Daleyot himself had fled to South Africa in his jet, leaving behind a debt of some €360 million. There followed a search for assets that could be liquefied, with no result. The safes where the diamonds should have been were empty, and even €15.7 million worth of rough diamonds, which had been entrusted to him for valuation, were also gone.

The same story continued with his art collection in Geneva, his property portfolio in Eastern Europe and shares listed in the books: not a trace remained of anything of value.

Daleyot, the court heard, had started by robbing all around him, then plundered his own empire, and finally headed off in a southerly direction with whatever remained.

“I have tried endlessly to ask Daleyot for an explanation,” the administrator told the court. “He contacted me once, with a threatening letter, warning that I would be held personally liable for all damage. The fact that such figures are allowed to walk around in Antwerp for so long is the death knell for the diamond sector.”

The court will deliver its verdict in October.

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