A report produced by the group 100Reporters.org stated that at least once a month, a private Airbus stops in Harare, Zimbabwe to fly rough diamond parcels out of the country. While Global Witness first identified this so-called ”mysterious” jet more than a year ago, 100Reporters added that the airplane has played an integral role in moving diamonds past Zimbabwe’s border and that money from their sale is funding President Robert Mugabe and a secret police force. Furthermore, the group noted that purchasing documents, corporate records and interviews on the ground revealed the airplane’s owners and partners to be involved in the diamond industry. The parties, for the most part, benefit too from registering their businesses in ”secrecy” tax jurisdictions such as Bermuda, according to 100Reporters. (Read the full, compelling report, which includes graphs and documents.)
In what 100Reporters called a ”flying hotel room,” the Airbus (tail code VP-BEX) ferries businessman Sam Pa (Xu Jinghua) at least once a month from Harare to South Africa, Hong Kong and other trading centers, and the aircraft is allegedly permitted unfettered access to South Africa without any cargo inspection required. The plane had been registered in Bermuda to Planair until September, at which time it was re-registered as Hong Kong Jet (Bermuda) to the HNA Group, according to 100Reporters.
On October 12, the group found, in one example of reviewing records, that VP-BEX filed its flight plan directly from Harare to Singapore; however, a South African private security specialist determined the plane stopped in Luanda, Angola without adjusting the logs. In November, HNA Group acquired a fourth luxury Airbus, but no identifying details were provided, according to 100Reporters.
Global Witness has called upon the European Union (EU) to add Pa and diamond miner Anjin to the region’s list of sanctioned entities. However, the EU did not oblige when it reviewed sanctions on Zimbabwe this past week.
Emily Armistead, a spokesperson for Global Witness, said that sanctions gaps could allow off-budget funding of the military from businessmen such as Pa. “We’d agree that Sam Pa needs to be on the list (of targeted sanctions). He’s given direct funding to the CIO among other issues,” Armistead told SW Radio Africa.
“European diamond companies must carry out checks on their supply chains to make sure their purchases are not fueling risks of human rights violations in Zimbabwe,” she added.