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April 2000

A United Nations report recently charged that despite Security Council sanctions, diamonds mined by rebel group UNITA continue to leak into the world markets.

The report implicated two sitting African presidents and a dozen countries for helping the UNITA diamond smuggling. Among those was Belgium, which the report claimed, “has almost no controls on contraband diamonds reaching Antwerp. Nor has any effective effort been made to monitor the activities of suspect brokers, dealers and traders — virtually all of whom appear to be able to travel freely and operate without hindrance,” the report said. It also accused several dealers of continuing to buy from UNITA, and that a prominent Antwerp diamond trader trained the diamond sorters who work for UNITA.

The diamond-funded war has cost the lives of 50,000 people and displaced 4 million others, the UN report said.

Belgium’s ambassador said that Antwerp has been singled out unfairly, noting the report did not mention Israel and India. He said that Belgium had taken measures, which should have been included in the report. But the head of the panel said that Belgium’s data had not arrived in time. In addition, the UN panel said there was no evidence that Angolan diamonds were coming into Israel.

De Beers escaped serious criticism in the report. It announced last month it would issue written guarantees that its diamonds do not originate from Angolan rebels and that all its diamonds are bought in accordance with UN sanctions.

In a CNN interview on the subject, The Diamond Registry pointed out that, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, Angolan diamonds are only 2% of the world’s production of diamonds. While we certainly agree that diamonds should not finance these civil wars, diamonds themselves cannot be blamed for the war any more than money is responsible for it.

While we urge the industry should do the utmost to follow United Nations sanctions and stop the flow of diamonds from such illegal sources, we also feel that it will be very hard to enforce rules on diamonds, unless the industry develops a way to determine country of origin of a diamond.

Mounties Work On Diamond I.D. Program

Could that happen? You never know. We recently heard that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are developing a diamond fingerprinting program with the aim of determining country of origin. In cooperation with many of the industry’s diamond authorities, such as De Beers and the HRD, the Police hope to establish a statistical database of diamonds from various sites around the world.

The technology would basically provide a chemical signature of a diamond, identifying its relative concentrations of impurity elements.

“We may not ever be able to say with 100% assurance where a diamond is from, but we will be able to determine in many cases with 100% assurance where a diamond is not from,” says RCMP Sgt. Pay Halwas, who emphasizes that this program is a joint effort with other organizations. “We want to go into this with the strength of all the research that’s been done to date. Our research will be shared with the diamond community at large.”

Validity results of the program will take at least five years. By then, we hope that peace will come to Angola and to the rest of the world.

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