Persaud says looking into status of local diamond trade

– as smuggling from Venezuela revealed

Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment Robert Persaud is currently making internal inquiries on the status of Guyana diamond trade with regard to compliance with the Kimberley Protocol which has again placed Guyana’s diamond trading under scrutiny.

In a comment to this newspaper yesterday, the minister said he preferred to wait until he would have completed compiling the relevant information before giving a comprehensive comment on an article published in the Stabroek News of December 7, 2012 and headlined ‘Diamond smuggling from Venezuela into Guyana mocks international pact’.

The Reuters article detailed the actions of diamond buyers as they made their way through the bushes of Venezuela to seek out and buy diamonds. It demonstrated that Venezuelan diamonds pass through Guyana and receive falsified certificates after which they most likely  end up in places such as Tel Aviv, Antwerp, London and New York.

Venezuela ceased issuing Kimberley certificates in 2005, voluntarily removing itself from the rigours of the protocol. In 2008, Venezuela removed itself as a participant to the Kimberley Process and the Kimberley Process board is said to be now considering formally expelling Venezuela from the process. According to the article, 2012 Chair of the Kimberley Process delivered an ultimatum to Venezuelan authorities to demonstrate compliance or lose membership altogether. It said that at a recent plenary meeting of the Kimberley Process in Washington, a deadline for Venezuela was set for April 1, 2013.

“It is a route that flouts the so-called Kimberley Process, an international pact set up in 2003 to curtail the diamond smuggling that was fueling civil wars in Africa – popularized as blood diamonds. While Venezuela’s stones are not ‘blood diamonds’ as such, the pact’s founders fear their existence may give other diamond-producing nations, like Zimbabwe, an excuse to turn a blind eye to other violations of the Kimberley pact,” the Reuters article said.

Robert Persaud

The article said that Minister Persaud denied his government was turning a blind eye. “We’ve always been conscious that there can be cross-border movement,” the article quotes the minister as saying. It said also that the minister said Guyana’s compliance with the Kimberley Process was under constant review “but declined to give concrete details.”

Persaud, as recently as August 2012, had told this newspaper that Guyana has never shirked its responsibility with respect to the KPCS “and will continue to honour its obligations.” He said that in due course and in the not too distant future, Guyana will be requesting its second peer review and will expect to be accommodated as the KPCS schedule allows.

He said Guyana had strengthened its export of precious stones’ procedures, and enhanced its compliance with the requirements of the KPCS. Guyana’s regulations and procedures were further endorsed as KPCS compliant in a peer review conducted six years ago. “Guyana has remained faithful to the established process and internal procedures employed,” Persaud said.

The minister said that in May this year, the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) met exporters to discuss concerns and make adjustments where any may be possible or prudent.

“It is recognised that there will be concerns raised from time to time with respect to possible cross – border movement of minerals which may include rough diamonds, in particular among Guyana, Brazil and Venezuela.  It is also, however, important to bear in mind that smuggling must first be established and not be speculated on,” he had stated.

He said the GGMC “jurisdictionally” deals with the movement of minerals from operation (source) to point of export, and collaboratively with Guyana Revenue Authority and Customs and certifying rough diamonds for export without which certification such diamonds would not be accepted at the proposed destination. “To date there has been no evidence provided which categorically demonstrates illicit movement,” the minister said.

He said that pursuant to standard procedures, rough diamonds which do not accord with Guyana’s “well-documented and researched mineralogy and characteristics” and for which documentation is unsatisfactory, are not sanctioned and certified for export. “This approach is consistent and exporters who have not been compliant have received appropriate sanctions, and some have since ceased to conduct business, with KPCS being informed through reporting requirements,” the minister had explained in August.

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