The Guyana and Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) is finding it difficult to come up with evidence to prove that the 4000 carats of diamonds worth over $131.665, 793 that were seized from a Belgian firm three weeks ago were smuggled into the country, a source at the agency has said but the Commissioner (ag), Williams Woolford is insisting there is evidence and they will prosecute.
Woolford told reporters on Tuesday that essential to the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) was accurate paperwork and from all appearances, the Belgian firm – Exporter Trade and Company Limited – has been found wanting in this area. This has been Woolford’s position since it was made known that the diamonds were seized and he has said that charges would be laid. However, acting Crime Chief Seelall Persaud told this newspaper on Thursday that they had received no report on the matter from GGMC. Wool-ford has argued that in addition to the firm’s paperwork not being accurate, the diamonds submitted are not mined here in such large quantities. Stabroek News was told that the company had submitted documents for the export of the diamonds to GGMC and on checking, the agency was 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. It is suspected that some of the diamonds were smuggled into the country from Africa, Venezuela or Brazil.
Speaking to Stabroek News recently on conditions of anonymity an official of GGMC said that authorities at the agency have not been able to conclude any charge against the principals of the firm. The official said that from what he was told the firm had all of its paperwork in order, but the inspector of the diamonds thought that they were not being mined in such large quantities here and as such the gems were seized. The official further stated that the firm did not do mining here and the diamonds it was trying to export were purchased from local dredge owners. Stabroek News understands that in order to operate a dredge, one has to obtain a permit from GGMC and from all appearances some of these persons who sold the Belgian firm the diamonds did not have their documents. This, according, to the official seems to be the real issue with regard to the diamonds and not that they were smuggled into the country. Stabroek News was told that the principals of the firm have been trying to get an audience with Prime Minister Samuels Hinds, but they have not made any headway. “I believe something else is playing out and there might be negotiations going on too,” the GGMC official said.
Prime Minister Hinds had told this newspaper that over a year ago GGMC had seized a quantity of diamonds thought to have been smuggled here. Sources at GGMC said that two months ago the mining body seized diamonds from a diamond exporting firm located on East Street some US$1.3M worth of diamonds suspected to have been smuggled from Africa. Sources say that after holding the gems for a few weeks GGMC released them after the company paid a fine of $2.5M and the firm was allowed to export the diamonds. Executive Secretary of the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association, Edward Shields told this newspaper last week that the issue of smuggling was a matter for Customs and based upon the reports it was not that agency that intercepted the diamonds. Shields said his association was concerned about allegations of diamond smuggling here, but no one has ever been charged and taken before the court.
On the issue of the 4,000 carats of diamonds Shields said it was not an abnormal amount for the company to be exporting.
He said that based upon information that amount has been the size the firm would export on a regular basis. Guyana is a signatory to the KPCS.
The KPCS originated from a meeting of Southern Africa diamond producing states in Kimberley, Northern Cape in May 2000. In order for a country to be a participant, it must ensure that diamonds originating from the country do 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 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 the diamonds are mixed with Venezuelan diamonds which are then ‘cleansed’ through Kimberley Certification documentation in Guyana before they are exported. 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.
Production has since dropped to around 300,000 carats. Authorities do not believe that ‘blood diamonds’ are coming to Guyana.