RAPAPORT… A United Nations-appointed team of experts has called on all countries bordering Coté D’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) and Ivorian authorities, to tighten controls after it found diamonds were being smuggled out of the Ivory Coast to Mali.
Cote d’Ivoire is subject to an embargo of diamond exports and is believed to be the only source of “conflict diamonds” in the market today. According to the World Diamond Congress (WDC,) these diamonds make up less than 1 percent of the total global trade. Neither Cote d’Ivoire nor Mali are members of the Kimberley Process (KP.)
The five-man team visited the Tortiya and Séguéla mining areas in August and September as part of an investigation into possible violations of the embargo on diamond exports.
“It [the investigation] uncovered evidence of persistent activity in the Tortiya and Séguéla mining areas,” the team said in a report. “Also, many dealers confirmed the use of Malian smuggling rings to move Ivorian diamonds out of the country.”
The team explained that all individuals interviewed in Séguéla and Tortiya unanimously acknowledged that “most of the diamonds mined in Ivory Coast are sent to Mali,” but did not give details on the identity of the exporters or buyers.
The group also visited neighboring Ghana to review its implementation of KP controls, and lauded the country for making “remarkable efforts that have enhanced the credibility of its internal control system and its diamond import/export regime.”
“In time this should help curb fraud and cross border smuggling,” the report continued.
The investigation also included a visit to Antwerp where the team met with representatives of the WDC and the KP to discuss diamond mining activity in Cote d’Ivoire and the illegal export of the stones to major markets.
A subsequent visit to the United Arab Emirates brought inconclusive results on whether Ivorian diamonds were filtering through to Dubai.
Political unrest has been rife in Cote d’Ivoire since the mid-1990s, during which time two coup d’états have been staged. After a peace agreement was signed in 2003 between the government and rebels, forming a unity government, violence broke again in 2004 when rebels refused to disarm. The violence continued through to March 2007 when another peace deal was signed between the government and the rebels.
The UN said in the report that while tension abated after signing the agreement, “the process of emerging from the crisis has not significantly progressed beyond symbolic acts.”
In addition to the diamond industry, the team of experts also reviewed the country’s security needs, and the implementation of the arms embargo there, its air force fleet, cocoa and coffee sectors.