R500m pink diamond at centre of court cases

15 August 2017 - 06:00 By Graeme Hosken
HIGH STAKES Johannesburg tycoon Zunaid Moti.
HIGH STAKES Johannesburg tycoon Zunaid Moti.
Image: Russell Roberts/FM

A Russian oligarch, a rare R500-million pink diamond, a Johannesburg businessman and Interpol arrest warrants are the subjects of a multipronged international court case.

The South African leg of the court case begins today when business tycoon Zunaid Moti, his father, Abbas Aboo Baker Moti, and business associates Ashruf Kaka and Salim Bobat turn to the Pretoria High Court to fight the Interpol red notices issued for their arrest.

A red notice is issued by the international policing agency when countries are unable to arrest suspects who have fled their policing jurisdiction.

The court case will form part of broader international litigation in France, Lebanon, Zimbabwe and Dubai.

The four suspects are calling on the court to interdict the execution of the Interpol warrants, issued in June, alleging that they were fraudulently obtained by Russian telecommunications tycoon Alibek Issaev.

Allegations that I gave it to them as security is rubbish. I have all the original documents.
Sylla Moussa

They have accused Issaev, a former partner in their South African FerroChrome smelter business, of stealing the diamond from them after he told them he had found a buyer for it in Russia. He neither sold nor returned the gem.

They claim Issaev made the fraudulent charges against them after they had obtained an Interpol arrest warrant for him in relation to an intellectual property business deal which went wrong in Zimbabwe. They had his Dubai properties attached.

This case, under way for a year, will continue on Thursday in Dubai.

The four are, however, accused by international diamond dealer Sylla Moussa, who owns Sylla Diamond International, of stealing the diamond from him in 2013.

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Moussa's theft case has been playing out in a Geneva court for the past two years.

Kaka yesterday told The Times that warrants for his arrest and for the arrest of the Motis and Bobat- issued by Lebanese authorities - were based on "fictitious" information.

In the warrants, which The Times has seen, the men are accused of stealing R6.6-million from a businessman.

Kaka said the businessman from whom they are alleged to have stolen the money was Issaev, "which is total rubbish". 

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 "None of us have been to Lebanon. We have phone records and our passports to prove this."

He said he and his associates had hired forensic scientist Paul O'Sullivan to help them with their case.

O'Sullivan said that, from records they had obtained, it was clear that none of his clients had been to Lebanon.

Kaka said they were asking the court for an undertaking that the warrants for their arrest be held in abeyance "pending the outcome of our matter with Interpol's oversight body in Lyon and the court cases which we have running in Lebanon, where we are challenging the original arrest warrants, Zimbabwe and Dubai".

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Kaka, responding to Moussa's allegations that he and his associates stole the diamond from him, said they had a letter of surety which showed that he had given them the diamond in payment of a debt.

"We have given the Geneva authorities, and lawyers for Malca-Amit - a company that stored the diamond - documentation proving that the diamond is ours.

"We have not testified yet, despite pleading with the court to give evidence."

Moussa said: "The Motis discovered I was in financial difficulties. They said they wanted to partner with me in my business. They sent Abbas to Geneva to view my diamond but it was under false pretenses. 

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"They used the trip to see what diamonds I had and then allegedly used false documents to steal my diamond and then sell it to a Russian businessman.

"Their allegations that I gave it to them as security is rubbish. I have all the original documents to show this is my diamond."

Police spokesman Brigadier Vish Naidoo confirmed that the police were aware of the warrants but had not received any documents from their Lebanese counterparts.

The Justice Department said an Interpol notice or extradition request had not been received.

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