Conflict Diamonds Likely Go Through CAR, NGO Says

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(Rapaport…January 13, 2003) A new report by the nongovernmental organization (NGO) Partnership Africa Canada (PAC) found a “strong likelihood” that conflict diamonds are being smuggled through the Central African Republic (CAR). The report was based on information collected in the CAR last year, and builds on a previous study published by the Diamonds and Human Security Project.

The report, entitled “Diamonds in the Central African Republic,” says that Antwerp imports far more diamonds labeled as originating in the CAR than the country actually produces. According to Christian Dietrich, the study’s author, the CAR has officially exported between $55 and $60 million worth of diamonds per year for the last several years. Yet Dietrich said High Diamond Council (HRD) statistics show that Belgium imported much more from the CAR — $160.7 million worth of diamonds in 2000, and $96.9 million worth in 2001. The HRD would not confirm or deny those figures. It no longer releases import statistics by country, according to the office of spokesman Youri Steverlynck.

The PAC report said that although the CAR has a good system for tracking diamonds, it is not always used, making the country “an attractive channel for diamond smugglers from other countries.” One likely source for illegal diamonds exported from the CAR is the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Congolese rebels reportedly mine diamonds in areas they control near the CAR.

The CAR government is aware that 40 percent of its own diamonds are smuggled out of the country, said its ambassador to the United States, Emmanuel Touaboy. Touaboy said he does not know if diamonds from the DRC are illegally shipped through the CAR. The government has traditionally adopted a hands-off approach toward the diamond business, he added.

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