Global Policy Forum

Blood Gems on the Agenda

Human rights groups continue to report abuses and killings in Zimbabwe's diamond fields, and the officials from the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) are monitoring the situation for further violations of minimum standards. Evidence indicates that the government has threatened and persecuted officials who have alerted the KPCS of human rights abuses. Documents also show that Zimbabwe continues to sell diamonds to numerous corporations without properly obtaining the requisite licenses. A KPCS meeting later this month will address Zimbabwe's activities and determine if the country should be permitted to sell its diamonds through established international channels.




By Zoli Mangena

June 6, 2010

Zimbabwe's controversial diamond mining activities and rampant smuggling will loom large during the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme meeting in Tel Aviv, Israel, this month.

The meeting will determine whether Zimbabwe will be allowed to formally join the certification scheme and sell its diamonds through established international diamond trading channels.

"It will be a very important meeting," a senior official of the scheme told the Sunday Times on Friday.

The scheme "has been trying to help Zimbabwe to build capacity and put in place proper diamond mining systems to avoid illegal activities and smuggling. Progress is being made but there is still a lot which needs to be done."

These included "strengthening security measures and ensuring organised mining".

Human rights groups, including the New York-based Human Rights Watch, London-based environmental watchdog Global Witness and local diamond overseer Centre for Research and Development in Zimbabwe, have accused Zimbabwean security forces, mainly the military, of widespread abuses and killings at the Chiadzwa diamond fields - a record that has earned Zimbabwe's gems the label "blood diamonds".

Officials of the Centre for Research and Development were arrested this week for telling the certification scheme about the human rights abuses, smuggling and theft. Their offices were raided and ransacked by police and intelligence officers.

The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme's monitor for Zimbabwe, Abbey Chikane, was in Harare last week to further assess if the country was making progress in complying with the minimum requirements of the international diamond trading system.

Zimbabwe has been selling diamonds to Dubai illegally, in defiance of its own court rulings, and without following the scheme's procedures. The illicit trade was stopped only last week by Chikane.

Documents from the Mineral Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe , the official minerals marketing agency, show that , on April 8, the body sold two parcels of rough diamonds worth $1.4-million to a Dubai company, Zardiam DMCC. The documents, in the Sunday Times' possession, show that the parcels included one of 16555.97 carats which went for $920091.78.

The money was paid to Lesley Faye Marsh Jewellers (Pvt) Ltd in Zimbabwe through a telegraphic transfer into ABC Bank.

The diamonds were smuggled through Harare Airport into Dubai.

Invoices are stamped by the Mineral Marketing Corporation with the following disclaimer: "The diamonds herein invoiced were produced from legitimate sources not involved in funding conflict and in compliance with United Nations resolutions. We hereby guarantee that these diamonds are conflict-free, based on written guarantees provided by the producer of these diamonds."

Besides, Zardiam DMCC, the other prominent client for Zimbabwe's controversial diamonds, according to the documents, is Vishal Diamond LCC, based at Boti Mehiri Building (Behind Gold Centre), 2nd Floor, Office Number 3 Deira Gold Souq, Dubai.

Zimbabwe is also selling diamonds illegally to Pure Diam DMCC, based at Almas Tower, Jumeirah Lakes, Dubai.

The diamonds were also sold through Sandawana Mines, owned by the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC).

Most of the payments were routed through Express Bank Ltd New York in the US. They were wired through telegraphic transfers in ABC Bank and CBZ Bank in Zimbabwe.

ZMDC is working with South African companies in Mbada Diamonds and Canadile Miners joint-venture partnerships hurriedly formed and given licences without going through transparent procedures last year. African Consolidated Resources is challenging their activities in the courts and says Zimbabwe's diamonds being sold in Dubai and other places are "stolen goods".


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