Sierra Leone Exports First Certified Diamonds

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(Rapaport…October 30, 2000) The New York Times reports that the first shipment of diamond exports authorized by the government of Sierra Leone arrived in Antwerp on Thursday, October 26. The diamonds were accompanied by certificates of origin.

The Sierra Leone certificate of origin program could be a precursor of a broader global effort to put an end to conflict diamonds. According to Mark van Bockstael, spokesperson for the Diamond High Council in Antwerp, $5 million worth of rough diamonds are awaiting shipment in Sierra Leone — more than three times Sierra Leone’s official exports last year.

Nicolas Karras, a trader who received the first certificate, told The Times that the system was flawed because “conflict diamonds never did go through an organized system in the first place.” He did note that this system is going to make illicit trade more difficult, Karras said that the only thing to do to solve the problem is to get rid of the rebel army.

Van Bockstael and other diamond traders acknowledge that the system could be circumvented by traders working with rebels in Angola and Sierra Leone, who sell diamonds through third countries that are not under the UN embargo – such as Liberia.

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