WDC: U.S. Can Enforce Kimberley Now

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(Rapaport…September 24) The United States can adhere to the Kimberley protocols for diamond certification without waiting for Congress to enact new legislation, according to Matt Runci, president of Jewelers of America (JA) and executive director of the World Diamond Council (WDC).

Runci said White House officials have recently told him they can implement the Kimberley rules, designed to keep conflict diamonds off the market, without the proposals pending in Congress. The president’s press office could not confirm that today, but Runci said the government has the power to do so under the Patriot Act passed after the strikes of September 11.

Part of the Act “seeks to establish practices which are designed to make businesses in the industry vigilant in terms of any irregular business activity that might suggest someone’s trying to move money through illicit channels,” Runci noted.

Conflict diamonds have long been known to have helped finance the civil wars ravaging Africa in recent years. And terrorist groups including Al-Qaida reportedly have turned some of their money into diamonds as well.

“The terrorist connection is something that has taken all of us very much by surprise,” Runci said. “But it is being addressed, not only through Kimberley but with the industry’s active cooperation through the U.S. Treasury Department with the implementation of the U.S. Patriot Act.”

More than 40 countries which have signed on to the Kimberley process are expected to declare their adherence to an implementation schedule at a meeting to be held in Interlaken, Switzerland November 4 and 5, Runci said. The White House’s position is not a change in policy but a reaction to the shortening timetable, he added.

“There has been a great deal of concern that because the legislative process in the U.S. is so slow — despite everyone’s best efforts — the U.S. could come up short if we had to wait for Congress to enact legislation to implement Kimberley,” Runci said. “So it is very good that the Bush administration feels it is able to implement Kimberley without new legislation being required. That’s what they’ve indicated to us.”

Runci also spoke to the need for regulation: “It’s very important because it will establish a basis of legitimacy for the continued trade in rough diamonds and help protect the trade from illicit practices, particularly the trade in conflict diamonds. Diamonds are after all a symbol of love, and any taint of the product by virtue of its association with abhorrent acts, certainly the atrocities committed in Africa during a certain period, should be of concern to everyone in the industry, no matter where they happen to fit. We want nothing to do with it.”

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