Report accuses Zimbabwe of stealing diamond money

November 13, 2012 at 10:15 am Leave a comment


About $2-billion worth of diamonds have been stolen from Zimbabwe’s eastern
diamond fields and have enriched President Robert Mugabe’s ruling circle.

Zimbabwe’s Marange fields have seen “the biggest plunder of diamonds since
Cecil Rhodes,” the colonial magnate who exploited South Africa’s Kimberley
diamonds a century ago, charged Partnership Africa Canada, a member of the
Kimberley Process, the world regulatory body on the diamond trade.

Zimbabwe’s eastern Marange field – one of the world’s biggest diamond
deposits – has been mined since 2006 and its vast earnings could have turned
around Zimbabwe’s economy, battered by years of meltdown and political
turmoil, the group said. But funds from the diamond sales have not showed up
in the state treasury. Instead there is evidence that millions have gone to
Mugabe’s cronies.

The report, released Monday to coincide with the Zimbabwe government’s
conference on the diamond trade here in Victoria Falls, casts a shadow over
the Mugabe regime’s effort to win international respectability for its gem

The report condemns the Mugabe government’s control of the Marange diamond
fields which have made Zimbabwe a major player in the international diamond

“Marange’s potential has been overshadowed by violence, smuggling,
corruption and most of all, lost opportunity,” the PAC report said.

“The scale of illegality is mind-blowing” and has spread to “compromise most
of the diamond markets of the world,” said the report.

The report describes the $2-billion lost to the Zimbabwe treasury as a
“conservative estimate”.

Finance Minister Tendai Biti said in his 2012 budget he had been promised
$600-million in diamond revenue for the national treasury to help re-finance
crumbling health, education and other public services. Biti said that only
one-fourth of that pledge has been received.

Mines minister Obert Mpofu, a Mugabe loyalist, insists Western economic
sanctions have prevented the government from getting good prices for the
diamonds on the international market. But Mpofu has repeatedly refused to
give exact figures on diamond revenues, said the PAC report.

Inner circle
Mpofu, the mines minister since 2009, amassed an unexplained personal
fortune and is linked to a “small and tight group of political and military
elites who have been in charge of Marange from the very beginning” and who
are personally benefiting from the diamond sales, the report alleged.

In 2010 leading industry insiders, including Filip van Loere, a Belgian
diamond expert working for the Mugabe government, forecast the country could
produce as much as 30-million to 40-million carats a year, worth about
$2-billion annually, the PAC report said. The diamonds are being mined and
sold but the funds are not reaching the Zimbabwean treasury, according to
the report.

Most of the diamond revenue is lost through a lack of transparency in
accounting for how many diamonds are mined, how much is earned from their
sales, the underpricing of gems on world markets, smuggling and a “high
level of collusion” by government officials.

Records show that 10-million carats of Marange diamonds were exported to
Dubai in late 2012 for $60-million, which the report said is an artificially
low price because the same stones were sold for double their original price
when they left Dubai for Surat, India – the world’s biggest diamond cutting
center. It says the gems should have been valued at $1.2-billion.

The low valuation lost the Zimbabwe nation considerable money and
“underscores a price manipulation scheme perpetrated by Indian buyers and
their Zimbabwe allies, with whom they are believed to share the spoils,” the
report said.

In addition, the report’s researchers were unable to locate a 2.5-million
carat stockpile, valued at around $200-million, which mysteriously
disappeared in November 2011. It also charges that $300-million in diamond
sales never made it to the Zimbabwe treasury in 2011.

All this has been allowed to happen under the watch of the Kimberley
Process, which is supposed to prevent misuse of diamond funds.

“Calls for greater transparency have been dismissed within the Kimberley
Process,” it said.

“The lack of transparency surrounding Zimbabwe’s diamond revenue is matter
of critical public interest and amplifies concerns for some time that these
revenues are funding a parallel government” of police and military officers
and government officials loyal to Mugabe, many known to be building private
mansions and buying luxury cars costing far in excess of their income from
tax-funded salaries, said the report. – Sapa-AP


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