Traffickers find new ways to trade conflict diamonds

Conflict diamonds
[Image Courtesy - Worldcrunch]

Numerous bans in the past including the Kimberley Process ban of trading diamonds from Central African Republic (CAR) in 2013, have been put forth to control the trading of conflict diamonds. However, no ban has stopped the traffickers from trading. Later in 2015, a part of the ban was lifted and CAR was allowed to ship diamonds in limited numbers. Partnership Africa Canada (PAC) published a report in 2016 – ‘Conflict to Illicit’, which stated illegal trade of diamonds from CAR to Cameroon and onwards how it enters the international market.

In a recent discovery, by a Global Witness’ investigator, a trafficker was found to be selling diamonds through Facebook and WhatsApp. The investigator acted as a buyer and had a conversation with the trafficker to purchase diamonds. During the course of conversation, trafficker seemed to be calm and relaxed but at the same time in a hurry to close the deal. He also did not care about the Kimberley Process and the fact that he is trafficking diamonds that are banned to be exported. He comes from the blood diamond community manager from CAR. These traffickers have their offices in Antwerp, Belgium and Sierra Leone, but Facebook has become their new hotspot. They use the platform to attract buyers and traders and sometimes even to meet new future partners.

As part of the research, Global Witness contacted seven such dealers. According to a report – ‘A Game of Stones’, only two of them abide by the Kimberley Process. Others go through a process which they term it as ‘naturalising’ the diamond. They give the CAR diamonds the nationality of Cameroon. They then mix these diamonds with other stones and claim it as mined elsewhere. Get the right paperwork done for them and export them to countries including Brazil, France, China, Israel et al.

Aliaume Lory, a campaign leader for Global Witness says, “These online tools give them the ability to quickly create a network of partners to bring Central African diamonds to the international market. Establishing this supply chain used to take a long time, but today, with social media, it only takes a few seconds.”

In accordance with the ban on exports of diamonds from CAR in 2013, the Council of European Union in 2015 had frozen assets of two companies who were found to have supported the armed groups through illegal trade of conflict diamonds in the region. Badica and its Belgian sister company Kardiam had appealed the asset freeze to the European General court, who ruled this month that, lawmakers proved that the companies had traded diamonds from CAR irrespective of the ban.

The EU’s General Court stated, “By continuing to purchase diamonds from collectors, Badica and Kardiam necessarily provided support to armed groups.”

Recently, European Union imposed a new regulation on companies trading gold, tin, tantalum and tungsten from conflict-affected areas. While it is not applicable on diamonds, its effectiveness is yet to be seen. However, Kimberley Process clearly isn’t very effective and trade of conflict diamonds is still prevalent.

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