Liberia Sells Conflict Diamonds

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(Rapaport…July 6, 2000) Even though Liberia’s president Charles Taylor was given credit for the release of 500 UN peacekeepers, he is taking heat for selling Sierra Leone conflict diamonds from on the world market.

In the UN Security Council Draft resolution to embargo Sierra Leone diamonds, Liberia’s known ties are mentioned. The draft states that Sierra Leone diamonds, “transit (through) neighboring countries, including the territory of Liberia.”

Moctar Ouane, ambassador from Mali, abstained from voting because he believed the draft’s reference to Liberia was “unacceptable.” He noted Taylor’s role in the release of peacekeepers and added, “we feel it is not timely before an inquiry is completed.”

London-based Global Witness, a non-governmental organization, reported that the Diamond High Council in Antwerp imported more than 31 million Liberian carats during the years 1994-1998. This number of almost six million carats per year raises origin questions when geologists estimate Liberia has the ability to mine 100,000 to 150,000 carats per year. Taylor’s close ties to Revolutionary United Front (RUF) chief Foday Sankoh are also widely documented.

From his company headquarters in Antwerp, Serge Muller, chief executive of Canadian-based Rex Diamond Mining said, “Everybody would have liked the embargo to cover diamonds from Liberia as well. Liberia has always been the source of diamond smuggling out of Sierra Leone even though it has small and marginal deposits. Liberia cannot possibly support the amount of diamonds coming out of there,” he added.

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