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July 2004

Do terrorists use diamonds to store money? It depends on who you listen to.

The 9/11 Commission in its massive report on the 2001 terrorist attacks has said that diamonds are not used as a financing source for terrorists.

This was good news for the industry, although Global Witness, the non-governmental organization (NGO) that studies conflict diamonds, not surprisingly rejected it.

Its investigative report, released in March 2003, found that Osama bin Laden’s personal secretary had a deep involvement in the diamond and precious gem trade, and the United Nations Special Court had linked the former leader of Liberia, Charles Taylor, who reputedly dealt in “blood diamonds,” to operatives from al Qaeda.

In a release, Global Witness wrote that they “feared that unscrupulous elements of the diamond trade will use the Sept. 11 report to undermine genuine and serious efforts to ensure that money laundering and terrorist financing are taken more seriously by the diamond industry.”

A recent Financial Times report also seemed to validate a link. Quoting U.S. intelligence sources, it said that the U.S. is looking closer at whether there has been a link between diamonds and not just al-Qaeda, but also Lebanese terror group Hizbollah.

Still, the idea is mostly theoretical at present. A U.S. intelligence officials said it was easy to point to plausible potential financial links between al-Qaeda and West Africa but much harder to find evidence.

One intelligence official told United Press International: “The investigation is continuing. For now there is no proof one way or another.”

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