Global Policy Forum

Belgian Council Tightens Controls on

June 28, 2000

Belgium's Diamond High Council said on Wednesday it had agreed with Angola to tighten controls on trade in illegal diamonds from the war-ravaged country and was close to a similar deal with Sierra Leone. The announcement was made on the eve of a meeting in London between government officials from diamond-exporting and importing countries along with industry representatives, aimed at stamping out commerce in so-called "bloodied" diamonds mined by rebel movements to fund their war effort.

The Diamond High Council or HRD, which controls trade in the Belgian city of Antwerp, the world's largest diamond trading center, said a certification process would be introduced covering both the export and import of diamonds.

The origin of each shipment of diamonds must be certified by the legitimate government of the exporting country. An import confirmation certificate will be sealed inside each parcel and stamped by Belgian customs officials on arrival before being returned to the country of export.

"The HRD shall take immediate sanctions on any party that deals in prohibited diamonds or encourages this trade (by seeing that) these individuals are expelled from the diamond industry," it said in a statement. "The HRD has invited the governments of Angola and Sierra Leone to send experts (to Antwerp). They will be able to lend assistance in identification if individual diamonds from the countries concerned are mixed in commercial assortments shipped to Antwerp via a third country."

Belgium was particularly criticized in a U.N. report released in March for having lax controls in the port city of Antwerp, where 80 percent of the trade in rough diamonds and 50 percent in polished diamonds is done.

The council said its initiatives were already having an effect, with the trade in illegal diamonds from Angola brought under control through additional controls and re-organization of the country's internal market.

Trade in diamonds from Sierra Leone had almost completely stopped, it said. In 1998, diamond imports from the west African country into Antwerp accounted of 0.5 percent of the total, while in 1999 this was down to 0.1 percent. "In 2000, that share will be reduced to 0.025 percent," the HRD said. "Neighboring countries such as Liberia are following the same trend and are experiencing a significant drop in their diamond trade in Antwerp."

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