HomeLocalChefs behind looting of Marange diamonds?

Chefs behind looting of Marange diamonds?

Recently, an Israeli pilot was caught with US$2 million worth of diamonds, while last year diamonds worth a similar amount were found in India.

This has raised questions on the security of the gemstones.

Farai Maguwu of the Centre for Research and Development, reckons the problem lies in the transportation and storage of the gemstones.

He said diamonds are usually stored in packages of about US$2 million and it was a striking coincidence that in both high-profile smuggling cases, minerals of a related value were recovered.

“The volume of diamonds that were found in India last year is similar to this one that was allegedly being smuggled out of the country by the Israeli and this raises suspicion,” Maguwu said.

He said it was highly unlikely that the diamonds could have been smuggled out of the Marange diamond fields, as the security was “water-tight”, but instead pointed a wagging finger at the storage facilities in Harare.

“There is no way 1 300 pieces could have been picked up from Marange,” Maguwu said. “Such volumes can only be taken from where there are stored.”

He alleged that a hidden hand, with access to the diamonds and with both political and financial muscle, was stoking the illicit trade in the gemstones.

Moses Mare, who chairs a parliamentary portfolio committee on mines, echoed the same sentiments, saying there were some shenanigans he did not understand.

“There is an anomaly in the transportation of diamonds from Marange to Harare, because for instance, you hear that a company sorts 20 000 carats in an hour yet only 4 000 carats are delivered in Harare,” he said. “There is a black hole somewhere.”

Mare, who recently led the portfolio committee tour to Marange, said there was something sinister happening at the diamond fields, particularly with one of the mining companies.

“When we got there, they told everyone to leave and only the chief security officer who could not answer our questions remained,” he said.

“Something is not right. I believe the Anti Corruption Commission should descend on Chiadzwa. They will discover no less US$1 billion worth of diamonds.”

Mare believes the diamonds uncovered at the airport were only the tip of the iceberg, as some gemstones could have been smuggled through borders, particularly those that are reportedly found in Mozambique.

Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena would not be drawn to comment on the leakages, saying security at the mines and during transportation was the duty of the respective mining houses.

“It is the responsibility of the companies, we work with them when it comes to tracing the leakages but it is their duty,” he said. “Already they work with our minerals unit.”

Zimbabwe has pinned its hopes of economic growth on Marange diamonds, but Finance minister, Tendai Biti says the gemstones are not performing.

He has often clashed with the Minister if Mines and Mining Development, Obert Mpofu, on the little revenue that Treasury gets from diamonds.

Recently Mpofu said the arrest of the Israeli showed that the government was committed to plugging leakages.

“The fact that we are arresting these people shows how diligent and strict we are with such people, because of the strictness government puts into diamond movement,” he said.


Masimirembwa suspects De Beer is behind leakages

Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation boss, Goodwills Masimirembwa said they were working on cutting on leakages, but suggested that the leaked diamonds could have been taken out of the country by De Beers, which was exploring in Marange before the government came in.

“If you look closely at both these cases, the diamonds emanated from South Africa and we cannot rule out the involvement of De Beers,” he said.

Masimirembwa said De Beers had been removing diamonds over a long period and questioned whether these were not the gemstones on the market. De Beers has in the past disputed allegations raised by government that it was looting gems.

The company said its operations in Marange were above board.

Masimirembwa disputed that leakages could have emanated from the transportation of the gemstones, as the police and the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) were also involved.

But Masimirembwa conceded that the mining fields were vast and it was difficult for the companies to police the whole area. This, he said, could result in some gemstones finding their way onto the parallel market.

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