Sunday, May 1, 2011

'Get tough with diamond smugglers'

Zimbabwe's mines minister Obert Mpofu, whose resignation was sought following seizure of blood diamonds originating from Zimbabawe by Gujarat's revenue intelligence in Surat, has asked India to act tough against the smugglers.

As per reports in Zimbabwean newspapers on Saturday, Mpofu has stated that all diamonds extracted from the country are supposed to be accompanied by KP certificates. If the persons did not have certificate, then it means they are criminals and should face full wrath of the law.

The Centre for Research and Development (CRD), a Zimbabwe-based NGO that investigates and exposes high-level corruption by government officials and gross human rights violation in Zimbabwe's diamond fields, demanded that Mopfu should apologise and resign from the post of mines minister for failing to curb the smuggling of precious stones.

Mpofu was quoted as saying, "We have been working tirelessly to curb cases of smuggling of minerals, including diamonds in the country and those caught on the wrong side of the law will face the music."

Zimbabwe is member of Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPSC), an international diamond regulatory body. The legal export of rough diamonds from Zimbabwe has been suspended since 2009 as no consensus has been reached between the KP member countries and the Government of Zimbabwe over the alleged human right abuses in Marange diamond field.

Last month, the new KP chair from Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) Mathieu Yamba had given a written approval to Zimbabwe to resume export of rough diamonds without taking other KP member countries in confidence. However, there were widespread opposition from international NGOs and the U.S and EU strictly asked the KP participant countries to stay away from purchasing Zimbabwean goods.

Recently, the KP's Working Group for Monitoring (WGM) organized a meeting in Dubai on April 4 and a new KP proposal was drafted for Zimbabwe to resume the diamond export from Marange field. The proposal has already been sent to Zimbabwe, but the government is yet to comply on the revised terms and conditions.

Industry sources said the seizure of blood diamonds worth Rs.10.17 crore originating from Zimbabwe has caught the attention of many in the global diamond industry. The Zimbabwe government should act strictly to stop diamond smuggling as the country is facing criticism over alleged human right abuses in Marange diamond field.

"It is the duty of Zimbabwe government to initiate measures to curb smuggling of precious stones. The smugglers should be nabbed in Zimbabwe and not allowed to fly to India with illegal consignment," a DTC sightholder said.

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