Harry Winston heir sues Deutsche for $1.3 billion

Deutsche Bank is being sued for $1.3 billion by Bruce Winston, heir to one of America’s most prestigious diamond dynasties, who says that priceless gems have disappeared from a trust under the German group’s control, the Times of London recently reported.

Winston, son of Harry Winston, the New York jewelry tycoon known as the King of Diamonds, alleges that Deutsche Bank has mismanaged a family trust set up after the death of his father in 1978 and that jewels worth hundreds of millions of dollars have gone missing.

The lawsuit was reportedly filed last night in Westchester County Surrogate Court, according to Paul Wexler, Winston’s lawyer in New York.

Winston believes that rubies, diamonds, emeralds and cash worth $700 million have been siphoned out of the trust during the past 24 years. Under New York State law, he would be entitled to 9 per cent interest a year if he wins the case, increasing the total value of the lawsuit to $1.3 billion, the newspaper reported.

In a statement, Winston says that Deutsche Bank had used his father’s estate “like a personal piggy bank,” the newspaper reported.

Wexler has also written to Eliot Spitzer with a demand that the New York attorney-general investigate Deutsche as part of the ongoing inquiry into improper business practices on Wall Street, the newspaper reported.

Deutsche Bank inherited the Winston case when it bought Banker’s Trust, the original trustee of the Winston estate, in 1999.

The bank’s involvement is the latest twist in a family feud, which has plagued the diamond empire since Edna Winston, Harry’s widow, died in 1986.

Bruce Winston then began a lengthy inheritance battle with his brother, Ronald, who now runs the H. Winston business.

Bruce originally claimed that Banker’s Trust had deferred management of the trust to Ronald instead of taking full responsibility for its contents.

In 2000 Ronald settled with Bruce, buying him out of the business for $54.1 million and donating $17 million to the trust.

The settlement was brokered by David Boies, the high-profile lawyer presently investigating Tyco, the troubled conglomerate.

The settlement also gave Bruce leave to pursue legal action against Deutsche Bank for mismanagement of the estate.