Seized gems origin still a mystery

The Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) was up to yesterday still trying to determine the origin of the 4,000 carats of rough diamonds it seized on Monday from a Belgian firm that was trying to export the gems to Dubai.

Officials at the GGMC said yesterday that they were currently working on making out a case against the company – Explorer Trade and Commerce Limited before calling in the police. Stabroek News was told on Monday that executives of the firm could be charged with breaching laws and regulations governing trade in the precious stones. General Manager of the Company Yuri Zaprudnov, while refusing to comment on the matter acknowledged that there were some differences between his firm and the GGMC.

Acting Crime Chief, Senior Superintendent Seelall Persaud, told Stabroek News yesterday that his office is yet to receive any report from the GGMC and he was not aware whether any had gone to the Commissioner’s office. Sources at the GGMC had said on Monday that the company submitted documents for the export of the diamonds and on checking they were not satisfied with the paperwork. This led to the inspection of the precious stones. When the diamonds were inspected it was found that several pieces that were uncut might not have originated from Guyana. Stabroek News understands that the company has been maintaining that the diamonds were mined here. However, sources at the GGMC said mining inspectors visited the area where the company said they extracted the diamonds but found no sign of this.

It is suspected that some of the diamonds were smuggled into the country from Africa, Venezuela or Brazil. Guyana is a signatory to the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme (KPCS). The KPCS originated from a meeting of Southern African diamond producing states in Kimberley, Northern Cape in May 2000. In order for a country to be a participant, it must ensure that any diamond originating from the country does not finance a rebel group or other entity seeking to overthrow a UN-recognized government. KPCS also mandates that every diamond export be accompanied by a Kimberley Process certificate proving that no diamond is imported from, or exported to, a non-member of the scheme.

A report from diamond industry watchdog, Partnership Africa Canada (PAC) last year had said that although Guyana has good internal controls through the GGMC, as much as 20 per cent of the US$43M diamond production is smuggled to the Brazilian border town of Boa Vista, where they are mixed with Venezuelan diamonds which are then ‘cleansed’ through Kimberley Certification documentation in Guyana before they are exported. The report had blamed the cross-border diamond smuggling on the weak controls in Brazil and Venezuela. The report had said that it estimates the volume of Venezuelan diamonds entering Guyana on a yearly basis to be somewhere between 50,000 to 100,000 carats out of a total production figure upward of 400,000 carats. These diamonds would have come through diamond dealers in Brazil, the report summed up. “As a result of the investigative work in Brazil and Venezuela, PAC believes that significant numbers of Venezuelan diamonds are entering Guyana, and being exported with Guyanese Kimberley Process certificates”, the report said last year.

GGMC Commissioner William Woolford had posited earlier this year that the GGMC has been vigilant in the trade of its diamonds long before the advent of the KPCS and insisted that there was no indication that blood diamonds were coming to Guyana from any of the conflict diamonds-reputed African nations like Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo or the Ivory Coast. In 2004 diamond production reached an all-time high of 425,000 carats while diamond declaration in 2002 and the years prior was at least 50 per cent less. The Prime Minister said that production has since dropped to around 300,000 carats. (Nigel Williams)

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