Feb 2, 2023
Carlyle-Backed Fund Nabs €50 Million of Diamonds in Antwerp Raid
(Bloomberg) -- Raids across more than a dozen properties around the Belgian diamond enclave of Antwerp seized roughly €50 million ($55 million) of the precious stones in an attempt to recover debts tied to the collapse of one of the country’s largest traders.
The raids were conducted by bailiffs and police at offices and private houses last month in a bid to recover debts once owed by Eurostar Diamond Traders NV to Standard Chartered Plc, people familiar with the matter said, asking not to be identified discussing confidential information.
A Carlyle Group Inc.-backed fund, which acquired the claims from the UK bank as part of its distressed debt business, worked with Grant Thornton on the asset recovery, which was done in accordance with Belgian courts, the people said.
A public court hearing in Antwerp took place on Thursday.
Eurostar was founded in the late 1970s by Kaushik Mehta. Once one of the biggest buyers of rough diamonds, Eurostar collapsed into bankruptcy in 2019 after a dispute with lenders including ABN Amro Bank NV about the company’s ability to repay its debt, according to a court-appointed administrator, who’s still trying to recoup assets for creditors.
A lawyer representing the Mehta family declined to comment. Representatives for ABN Amro, Carlyle, Grant Thornton and Standard Chartered also declined to comment.
Standard Chartered ran an ill-fated venture offering trade finance to diamond dealers that left it facing losses of some $400 million. Fresh from the global financial crisis, Standard Chartered spotted an opportunity to lend to the so-called diamond midstream, where mostly family-run businesses buy rough stones from miners like De Beers before cutting and polishing them into the sort of stones sold in jewelry shops.
The bank quickly built a $3 billion loan book as it undercut rival lenders and offered flexibility on credit deals they couldn’t match. Eurostar, which at the time was one of De Beers’ 80-or-so handpicked customers, became one of Standard Chartered’s biggest clients in the diamond industry.
--With assistance from April Roach, Stephanie Bodoni and Ben Scent.
(Updates with ABN Amro response in sixth paragraph.)
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