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Global Witness Warns of CAR Diamond Smuggling

Jun 26, 2017 3:06 AM   By Joshua Freedman
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Smugglers are using social-media platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp to get diamonds out of the Central African Republic (CAR) and into international markets, Global Witness claimed in a report last week.

A representative from the organization posed undercover as a diamond trader to gain “unprecedented access” to those involved in smuggling diamonds out of CAR, it said Thursday. During the year-long investigation, it found that sellers and middlemen were tagging potential buyers in Facebook posts and then using private messages to develop relationships and negotiate deals.

The Kimberley Process (KP) suspended CAR in 2013 — meaning the country was banned from exporting rough diamonds — after rebels took over the nation’s government. Last year, the KP readmitted the country and permitted it to resume exports from certain regions that the KP deemed compliant with regulations to prevent conflict-diamond trading.

However, non-profit Partnership Africa Canada (PAC) alleged late last year that CAR diamonds were still entering the global market because of poor prevention controls.

On Thursday, Global Witness warned that smugglers were managing to get their goods past all the checks, moving diamonds “with ease” within the country and across its international borders.

In its report, titled “A Game of Stones,” Global Witness said it had spoken to seven diamond dealers, including five CAR nationals. Five openly discussed smuggling across international borders, with the diamonds in question allegedly headed to buyers in Belgium, Brazil, France, China, Israel, Lebanon, South Africa, Sierra Leone and Liberia, the organization said. The largest parcel the dealers mentioned was over 900 carats, it added. Only two traders, both CAR nationals, said they did not engage in smuggling and respected the Kimberley Process.

Traffickers source diamonds from the rebel-controlled areas because they are much cheaper than goods from the government-controlled regions, the report cited one diamond dealer as saying.

“Often there is a local rebel chief there that hosts them…. They buy, they buy, they buy,” the trader said. “Once at the airport [in CAR or neighboring Cameroon], they leave, as there are no controls, and they pose as simple travelers.”

Dealers can also transport CAR’s diamonds by sending a courier on a motorcycle to one of the compliant zones, such as Berberati, to deliver them to Cameroon, according to the report.

The fact that smugglers are getting diamonds out of CAR illegally shows the KP is not succeeding in policing the country’s trade, argued Michael Gibb, the campaign leader for conflict resources at Global Witness.

“CAR is precisely the kind of case the Kimberley Process was established to confront,” Gibb said. “It illustrates perfectly that it cannot tackle the continued trade in conflict diamonds alone. Diamond companies must take greater responsibility for building an industry that stops ill-gotten gains reaching international markets.”

The illustration was commissioned by Global Witness from an artist based in CAR.
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Tags: Berberati, cameroon, car, Central African Republic, Conflict Diamonds, facebook, Global Witness, Joshua Freedman, Kimberley Process, KP, pac, Partnership Africa Canada, Rapaport News, social media, WhatsApp
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