Thursday, December 9, 2010
Mugabe's wife implicated in illicit Zimbabwe diamond trade
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's wife was among those who gained millions of dollars from illegal diamonds mined in the east of the country, according to a US cable obtained by Wikileaks.
"High-ranking Zimbabwean government officials and well-connected elites are generating millions of dollars in personal income by hiring teams of diggers to hand-extract diamonds," US ambassador James McGee wrote to Washington in 2008.
"They are selling the undocumented diamonds to a mix of foreign buyers, including Belgians, Israelis, Lebanese, Russians and South Africans, who smuggle them out of the country for cutting and resale elsewhere."
The cable then discussed a meeting with Andrew Cranswick, chief executive of the British mining firm African Consolidates Resources, that had a claim to the Chiadzwa mine revoked by the Harare government, according to McGee.
"According to Cranswick, there is a small group of high-ranking Zimbabwean officials who have been extracting tremendous diamond profits from Chiadzwa," it said, naming Mugabe's wife Grace and Central Bank governor Gideon Gono.
The Chiadzwa mine is in the Marange district of eastern Zimbabwe.
The diplomatic message, released on Wednesday, said the diamond site had attracted a "swarm of several thousand local diggers" and "the police response has been violent, with a handful of homicides reported each week."
Other Zimbabwean government officials implicated in the siphoning of diamonds from the Marange fields include Vice President Joyce Mujuru and the head of the army, General Constantine Chiwenga, said the cable.
International regulator the Kimberley Process barred the sale of Marange diamonds in November 2009 following reports of human rights abuses by the army at the mine.
A monitor appointed by the watchdog in July partially lifted the ban, saying Zimbabwe had ceased abuses by the military, which seized control of the Marange fields in late 2008 and forced out tens of thousands of small-scale miners.