Antwerp Boils over banking scandals
Belgian officials reacted angrily to a perceived attempt by leaders of the Israeli diamond center to profit from a series of banking scandals that have struck Antwerp.
On the heels of Belgian press coverage – in which Israeli diamond leaders were quoted as questioning the stability of Belgium’s diamond sector – Peter Meeus, general manager of the Beurs voor Diamanthandel, publicly accused the Israel Diamond Exchange of trying to steal diamond dealers away from Antwerp.
Meeus’ statement was published in an Antwerp newspaper and aroused controversy. “We have nothing against the bourse in Antwerp, but we must think of the Israel industry, which is fighting for its existence,” responded IDE President Itzhak Forem. Forem and others have worked to open a rough diamond exchange in Israel, which should happen late this year or early next year.
Meeus reacted to articles appearing in a number of Antwerp newspapers written by journalists who were part of a delegation that visited Israel in May. They met with leaders of Israel’s diamond trade, as well as local government and banking officials. Organized by Dutch public relations consultant Hans Knoop, the actual identity of who had financed the journalists’ trips was uncertain.
The scandals include an early June police raid on two diamond company offices. Antwerp police confiscated boxes of documents and computer diskettes. They also arrested three diamantaires, who were still in custody at press time. While no information regarding the reasons for the arrests have been released, it is widely believed they are connected to a police investigation of the affairs of Bank Max Fischer, which was headquartered in Antwerp’s diamond district and was declared bankrupt several months ago.
The Bank Max Fischer scandal first came to light in November following the arrest in London of Fouad Abbas, a Pakistani drug dealer who revealed he used the auspices of Bank Max Fischer to launder money earned illegally.
The Antwerp branch of the State Bank of India is also being investigated following accusations of illegal activity at the bank made by a former employee of the institution.
JACMEL BUYS PETER BRAMS
Jacmel, a manufacturer of gold, diamond and colored gemstone jewelry for the “bridge” jeweler, acquired Peter Brams Designs of New York City in June.
Peter Brams Designs specializes in 14k and sterling silver jewelry at opening price points. The company has moved to Jacmel’s facilities in Long Island City, N.Y., and will continue to produce jewelry under the Peter Brams name. “We will continue to make jewelry that is distinct and different with the help of technical advancements at Jacmel’s facilities,” says Peter Brams, the company’s president. Of the more than 100 employees working at Peter Brams Designs, about 85% are still associated with the company, he says.
COLEMAN BUYS CASTINGS ON PARADE
Black Hills Gold by Coleman, Rapid City, S.D., has acquired Castings on Parade of Albuquerque, N.M.
All operations will be moved to the Coleman manufacturing facilities in Rapid City. Product lines will expand beyond Coleman’s Black Hills Gold jewelry into new designs in sterling silver, 10k and 14k gold.
Shareholders give nod to signet Plans
Shareholders of the Signet Group have approved proposals to convert all classes of the company’s preference shares into about 1.4 million new ordinary shares and eliminate a sizable portion of debt. Signet, headquartered in London, is one of the world’s largest jewelers and parent of Sterling Inc., the second-largest U.S. chain jeweler.
The plans were approved “by a significant majority,” said Signet, and were part of a reorganization of the debt-burdened company’s complex capital structure. They are designed to erase a $240 million deficit, including some $200 million in unpaid dividends on the preference shares. In addition, all shareholders would hold the same class of shares. The move is necessary, says the company, because Signet’s capital structure is unbalanced, with a disproportionate amount of preference-share capital.
Charles Perrella celebrates 80th
Charles Perrella Inc., Valley Cottage, N.Y., celebrates its 80th anniversary this year.
Genaro Perrella began his career as an apprentice jeweler in 1917. In 1928, his brother, Charles, who was trained as a machinist, joined the business and took over after Genaro’s death in 1931. He began to use die striking to distinguish himself from his competitors and patterned his shops after European-type jewelry factories, where employees understood all aspects of jewelry construction and worked with all precious metals.
Charles Perrella’s daughter, Marie, took over the business in 1978 after her father retired. “When I first came to work for my father, all information related to his business was in his head, nothing had ever been written down,” she recalls.“So I spent hours with him compiling all the information needed to create the Charles Perrella line.” The company continues to focus on fine quality and customer service and still offers handmade jewelry.
Eva Seid, S. Fuchs end partnership
Eva Seid Design and S. Fuchs & Co. Inc., both of New York City, have dissolved their partnership. A new line of diamond and bridal jewelry is now available through Eva Seid Design, 85 South St., New York, NY 10038; (212) 825-1984, fax (212) 825-2037.