Oryx, DRC Pol Linked to Conflict Trade

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(Rapaport…October 14, 2002) Less than a year after the BBC had to apologize for wrongly accusing Oryx Natural Resources of conflict diamond terrorist financing, the mining company’s president has been linked to stones smuggled out of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) by another media outlet.

Ahmed al Shanfari allegedly has been moving illegal diamonds with the help of Emmerson Mnangagwa, speaker of Zimbabwe’s Parliament, according to an account published October 11 in the Daily News of Harare. The article reiterated charges recently levied in the Spanish paper El Pais. Shanfari could not be reached for a response.

Oryx owns a diamond concession in Mbuji-Mayi. Employees of the firm allegedly smuggled stones out of Harare International Airport in Zimbabwe. Mnangagwa reportedly ensured the shipments made it out of the country safely — for a price. When one alleged money launderer employed by Oryx was caught bringing $750,000 back to the DRC, Mnangagwa spoke to the Congolese government on his behalf.

He does not deny the allegation. He said it was a routine call requesting an investigation because “if they detain you in the DRC they forget about you.”

Mnangagwa, who formerly served as Zimbabwe’s justice minister, insisted there was nothing nefarious about his ties to Shanfari. The Oryx president donated roughly $1 million to Mnangagwa’s political party.

“Shanfari has a relationship with the army, not even with the government,” Mnangagwa said. “There is no personal relationship between me and Shanfari. I am not aware that any diamonds are being smuggled out of the DRC. It is not possible, if you know the system in the DRC.”

Putting an end to the conflict diamond trade — whether in the Congo, Zimbabwe or Sierra Leone — has become a top priority of diamantaires, global activists and governments around the world. The Kimberley Process of diamond certification is meant to eradicate the practice in January 2003 — although industry leaders and representatives of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) remain divided over how effective the measures will be.

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