State Dept. Says No Link Between Tanzanite and Bin Laden

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(Rapaport…February 11, 2002) A member of the United States State Department reported on February 9 during a meeting at the annual American Gem Trade Association (AGTA) GemFair in Tucson that there is no current evidence confirming allegations linking the tanzanite trade to Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida terrorist network.

“We have seen no evidence that al-Qaida or any other terrorist group is currently using tanzanite sales to finance its efforts or to launder money,” said Mike O’Keefe of the State Department office of East African Affairs.

The Wall Street Journal reported in an article published on January 24 that a former personal secretary to bin Laden detailed in his diary that al-Qaida may have been using tanzanite to help finance its operations for the past several years. The Wall Street Journal first brought the issue to the public’s attention with a report published last November. Since then, Zale’s, Tiffany and QVC have suspended the sale of tanzanite jewelry.

Groups involved in the tanzanite trade announced at a meeting held in Tucson on February 9 that they have established concrete steps aimed at protecting the legitimacy of tanzanite. The new proposal, dubbed the Tucson Tanzanite Protocol, was crafted with the endorsement of the U.S. State Department. The steps outlined in the proposal include implementing a system of downstream warranties for traders who buy, sell, cut, polish, set or otherwise trade tanzanite, conducting an analysis of the tanzanite market to determine what improvements can be made to prevent abuse, and a mandate requiring traders to only accept tanzanite that is accompanied by a written warranty.

“We have an obligation to consumers and to our own consciences to take practical, effective measures that will assure confidence in tanzanite,” said AGTA Executive Director Douglas Hucker. “The mere possibility that terrorists may be profiting from this gemstone, now refuted by the State Department, is abhorrent to us all.’”

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