Monday, December 13, 2010

Zimbabwe's diamonds are dirty, claims Wikileaks

A US document, which says that thousands have been murdered and those close to president Robert Mugabe have been enriched by illicit diamond trade in Zimbabwe and published by Wikileaks, has come as a big jolt to diamantaires in the world's biggest diamond cutting and polishing centre in Surat and also the founders of Surat Rough Diamond Sourcing India Limited (SRSDIL).

The Wikileaks expose on Zimbabwe's blood diamond trade has come at a time when the company formed by 1,500 diamantaires - SRSDIL -- is eagerly awaiting the clearance of rough diamond export from Zimbabwe by Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS).

"In a country filled with corrupt schemes, the diamond business in Zimbabwe is one of the dirtiest," according to a classified document dated November 2008 from the US embassy in the country, released this week on Wikileaks.

The Zimbabwean government, according to Wikileaks, deployed soldiers at the diamond fields in Marange in 2008 to seal off the area and clamp down on illegal mining, but rights activists say this resulted in serious rights abuses by the army. Villagers were uprooted and murders increased, the classified US documents said. The classified document cited a village chief as saying the government had relocated as many as 25,000 villagers in an attempt to secure more money.

The Wikileaks expose is likely to impact the ongoing decision making process by international diamond regulator -- Kimberley Process -- and the member countries on allowing rough diamond export from the Marange diamond fields in Zimbabwe. The KPCS has failed to break an international deadlock over Zimbabwe's suspended diamond export at two consecutive meetings. In the first meeting organised in Israel on November 1, no agreement was reached on whether to allow Zimbabwe to export its rough diamonds from Marange fields after opposition by the members from Canada, Europe and Australia.

The second meeting held at Brussels in mid-November, too, failed to reach any consensus on Zimbabwe stalemate. "The Surat industry has suffered a big setback from this development, especially the newly formed SRSDIL. The company has spent a good amount of money in the last two months to secure a deal from Zimbabwe," said a member of SRSDIL.

The Zimbabwe Diamond Consortium (ZDC) and the SRDSIL had signed a pact for the supply of $1.2 billion worth of rough diamonds mined at Marange diamond fields in October. But the pact may not see the light of the day after the Wiki expose.

In the last two auctions of KP certified goods organised by Zimbabwe government in August and September, 2010, about 90 per cent of the $100 million worth of rough diamonds sold, were purchased by the Indian diamantaires, especially from Surat. Recently, Zimbabwe announced of having mined 2.7 million carats of diamonds worth millions of dollars from Marange diamond fields and that it had an additional stockpile of 4.7 million carats of rough diamonds.

Read more: Zimbabwe's diamonds are dirty, claims Wikileaks - The Times of India

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