Almost 15 years ago, diamond-producing countries decided to introduce a measure to authenticate the source of diamonds that were being sold at markets like Antwerp in Belgium. This measure was aimed at preventing illicit diamond proceeds fueling wars in war-torn regions of Africa like Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo. But here is the trillion dollar question: What checks and balances have been introduced? What if diamonds sourced from war-torn areas are laundered and smuggled into the legal market?
A documentary flighted on Al Jazeera television last month raised a few intriguing questions about the effectiveness of measures like the Kimberly process. The documentary demonstrated that it is easy to buy minerals from rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) smuggle them to a third country repackaged, tagged and exported to overseas markets where they fetch high prices. The programme posited that minerals reach neighbouring countries like Rwanda and Uganda which are not known to be mineral exporters and had backing evidence to boot. As if that did not astonish enough, it revealed that smuggling is sanctioned by corrupt government officials who get a “commission” from the transactions.
The fact that rebel groups can sell illicit minerals through middle men to sanitise suggests that there are loopholes in the supposedly impregnable mechanisms.