Investigators Raid Lebanese Dealers In Antwerp

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(Rapaport… September 11, 2003) According to latest Belgian media reports, the Belgian Public Prosecutor’s office carried out raids in Antwerp’s diamond district on September 10, 2003, as part of a probe into money laundering and forgery by Lebanese Antwerp diamond family Ahmad. According to De Standaard, 60 investigators, led by Belgian examining magistrate, Thierry Freyne, raided 28 addresses in the Antwerp diamond area.

The investigators suspected that the diamond dealers systematically issued false invoices for diamonds they bought in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to camouflage their illegal trade in conflict diamonds from African war zones. The Ahmads were already finger pointed in various United Nations reports as a criminal organization dealing conflict diamonds.

The Public Prosecutors Office carried out another search of the diamond district on September 10, over another fraud investigation involving tens of millions of euros. It is suspected that the search follows an investigation into Soafrimex NV, a Lebanese Antwerp company that exports food products to Africa and that was allegedly paid in diamonds. The State Security department received a tip off that Soafrimex is financing the Arab European League (AEL) of Dyab Abou Jahjah, but as of yet this has not been confirmed. The Public Prosecutor can however prove a case of fraud. The investigation has led to the arrests of the director, his wife and an accountant. Their lawyers are adamant that the company was not involved in diamond fraud.

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