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‘Marange looting worsens’

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VICTORIA FALLS — At least $2 billion worth of diamonds have been stolen from Zimbabwe’s eastern diamond fields and have enriched President Robert Mugabe’s ruling circle, international gem dealers and criminals, according to an organisation leading the campaign against conflict diamonds.

Report by Fin24.com

The Marange fields have seen “the biggest plunder of diamonds since Cecil Rhodes”, charged Partnership Africa Canada (PAC), a member of the Kimberley Process. Marange field — one of the world’s biggest diamond deposits — has been mined since 2006 and its vast earnings could have turned around Zimbabwe’s economy, the group said. But funds from the diamond sales have not showed up in the State Treasury. Instead there is evidence that millions have gone to Mugabe’s cronies.

The report, released yesterday to coincide with the government’s conference on the diamond trade here in Victoria Falls, casts a shadow over the Mugabe regime’s effort to win international respectability for its gem trade.

Government officials at the conference denied the report’s allegations as “totally false”.

The report condemns the government’s control of the Marange diamond fields. “Marange’s potential has been overshadowed by violence, smuggling, corruption and most of all, lost opportunity,” the PAC report said. “The scale of illegality is mind-blowing and has spread to compromise most of the diamond markets of the world,” noted the report. The report describes the $2 billion lost to the Treasury as a “conservative estimate”. Finance minister Tendai Biti said in his 2012 Budget he had been promised $600 million in diamond revenue to help refinance crumbling public services.

Biti said only one-fourth of that pledge had been received.

Mines minister Obert Mpofu, a Mugabe loyalist, insists that Western economic sanctions have prevented the government from getting good prices for the diamonds.

But Mpofu has repeatedly refused to give exact figures on diamond revenues, said the PAC report.

In 2010, leading industry insiders, including Filip van Loere, a Belgian diamond expert, forecast the country could produce as much as 30 million to 40 million carats worth about $2 billion annually, the PAC report said.

The diamonds are being mined and sold but the funds are not reaching the Treasury.

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