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Banned diamonds are entering pipeline, WDC warns

By Michelle Graff

July 02, 2014

New York--There is evidence that conflict diamonds from the Central African Republic are reaching international markets, despite the fact that trade in rough from that country was banned by the Kimberley Process more than a year ago. 

The KP opted to institute a temporary ban on trading in rough from the Central African Republic in May 2013 after rebel groups overthrew President François Bozizé, reportedly using diamonds from the country’s alluvial mines to fund their operations.

The KP suspension will remain in place until a review mission to the Central African Republic can be carried out, which is unlikely to happen in the near future as the nation remains in the throes of a brutal civil war. 

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Despite the ban, the World Diamond Council said in an alert issued Monday that diamond mining in the Central African Republic continues, and there is evidence of diamonds from the country reaching the markets. 

The latest such report came a month ago, when authorities in Belgium reported that they had seized a parcel of stones that matched the so-called production footprint--the color, assortment, type, size and quality distribution--of diamonds typically mined in the Central African Republic. The Antwerp World Diamond Centre said at the time that the investigation into the source of these diamonds was ongoing. 

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The WDC said any person or entity caught trading in rough from the Central African Republic will be subject to sanctions agreed upon by the WDC and the diamond exchanges that are members of the World Federation of Diamond Bourses. WFDB President Ernie Blom said according to the organization’s bylaws, a member of a bourse who violates the code of ethics can be sanctioned either by suspension or expulsion after an investigation by the local bourse.

The WDC also urges members of the diamond industry who are aware of any such activity taking place to report it to the KP authorities in their country immediately. 

Longtime diamantaire Edward Asscher, who is the newly elected president of the WDC, said this issue is one of “critical importance” to the industry. 

“Illicit trading in diamonds from the CAR not only undermines the efforts of the international community to restore peace in the country, but it challenges the reputation of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme and the efforts of our industry, government and civil society to eliminate the trade in conflict diamonds,” he said.