Smugglers Move Diamonds Despite Ban


By Pauline Bax

October 10, 2006

Smugglers in war-divided Ivory Coast are violating a United Nations-imposed ban on diamond sales, illegally exporting the gems to neighboring countries for overseas sales, according to a draft U.N. report obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press.

The illegal trade in "conflict diamonds" has long fueled African wars and the U.N. Security Council imposed the diamond embargo on Ivory Coast in a bid to keep rebels in the turbulent country from profiting from the gems. The draft report, which has not yet been published, says $9 million to $24 million worth of diamonds mined in the rebel-held north of the West African country are being sold on the international market each year via brokers in Ghana and Mali.

Ivory Coast has been split in two since fighting erupted in 2002, and rebels control the arid northern half. About 10,000 U.N. and French peacekeepers have been deployed to maintain a fragile peace. Rebel officials could not immediately be reached to comment on the report's findings.

Earlier this year, U.N. experts compiling the report visited five diamond mining sites controlled by the New Forces rebel movement. The report identified four major diamond dealers _ a Ivorian, a Malian, a Belgian and another whose nationality was not known _ in the northern rebel town of Seguela. It also cited two Belgian buyers who relocated to Ghana following the outbreak of Ivory Coast's war. A 60 percent rise in diamond exports from Ghana since 2000 could be explained by U.N. embargoes on Ivorian and Liberian diamonds, the report said.

Ivorian rebels impose taxes on trucks carrying goods through their territory to finance their activities and admit to smuggling cocoa to neighboring countries. Porous borders and poor controls are to blame for the illicit diamond trade, according to the U.N. report, which urged Ghana and Mali to take steps to prevent Ivorian diamonds from being smuggled through their territory.

The diamond ban made Ivory Coast part of the "Kimberley Process," established in 2002 to help control conflict diamonds _ sometimes called "blood diamonds" _ that have fueled and funded wars that killed millions in Angola, Congo, Sierra Leone and Liberia. The process is designed to track diamonds from mines to jewelry display cases, certifying the origin of each stone.

More Information on the Security Council
More Information on Ivory Coast
More Debates and General Articles on Diamonds in Conflict
More Information on Diamonds in Conflict
More Information on Kimberley Process
More Information on Peacekeeping

FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C íŸ 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.