Opinion: KBC Killed Off Antwerp Diamond Bank to Hide Corruption

Opinion piece
14/09/2015 12:31

As reported by Vinod Kuriyan, veteran industry analyst Chaim Even-Zohar writes in his latest issue of the "Diamond Intelligence Briefing" that Belgium's KBC Bank purposefully dismantled the Antwerp Diamond Bank in order to protect its secret history of corruption, money laundering and offshore accounts from prosecutors and U.S. banking regulators. Zohar writes: "[Certain key players within KBC] did everything in their power to frustrate the sale of the bank as a going concern to some very serious and appropriate suitors. There were always prospective buyers of ADB... However, it turns out that there was no serious seller" (author's emphasis). He claims that KBC delayed the sale/eventual closure of ADB as long as possible in order to buy time to clean their dirty laundry. Furthermore, he argues that there was no legitimate reason to let ADB fall, but in doing so, "KBC betrayed the diamond sector. It didn't just sacrifice the ADB, but rather inflicted irreversible damage to the entire industry." 

The industry was recently reminded of Erez D. (ED), who ADB bankrolled for years, and who is now being sued by KBC. According to Zohar, this has everything to do with ADB/KBC's knowledge of, if not involvement in, ED's allegedly shady deals. KBC/ADB has been the object of a $500 million lawsuit by American jewelry giant Lazare-Kaplan International (LKI) for seven years: LKI accuses ADB and KBC of fraud and corruption, claiming that the bank systematically credited ED's accounts (on- or offshore) with moneys belonging to LKI. LKI has also filed a criminal complaint against ADB on the basis of alleged bribery of ADB officers by ED. The Belgian press announced on August 29 that KBC is suing ED (after having previously protected him) for the smuggling and sale of $63 million in diamonds that belonged to the bank. Zohar points out that the press failed to report on ED's affidavit from Sept. 1, which claims that the bank had full knowledge of his activities and whereabouts.

Zohar concludes that, "There was only one party that was interested in closing down the bank - and that was KBC." He believes that the final chapter of Antwerp Diamond Bank's story has not yet been written, but he is convinced it will not be a happy ending.