(AFP) – Jul 2, 2012
WINDHOEK — A Namibian diamond cutting and polishing plant owned by Russian-Israeli tycoon Lev Leviev said it laid off its entire workforce Monday after its bid to buy rough gems from De Beers flopped.
"We handed out retrenchment letters to the 150 workers today," Lev Leviev Diamonds (LLD) managing director Kombadayedu Kapwanga told AFP.
The workers were sent on upaid leave on June 10 as a precursor to the retrenchment.
The local diamond selling arm of De Beers, the Namibian Diamond Trading Company (NDTC) did not renew LLD Namibia's sight-holding permit last month.
Sightholders are select diamond traders and polishers who apply for diamond buying contracts from De Beers. A total of 14 sightholders applied to have their buying contracts with NDTC renewed and only LLD was turned down.
NDTC spokesman Brent Eiseb last month justified the company's decision saying there was intense competition in the sector.
Kapwanga said there were no immediate plans to shut down the plant.
"We will not shut down the company, negotiations with De Beers and the NDTC are ongoing," he said. "Nobody in his right mind will want to see 150 employees sit in the street."
Kapwanga said he hoped the company would be able to buy local diamonds again and re-appoint its employees.
LLD Namibia was established in 2004 at a cost of three million dollars (2.6 million euros) and touted then as Africa's largest diamond cutting and polishing factory.
Leviev's self-made fortune was estimated at $1.7 billion in March this year by Forbes magazine.
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