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General News Sat, 7 Oct 2006

Conflict diamonds smuggled into Ghana

... No comment from Govt, despite being aware
Diamonds from rebel-controlled areas of Ivory Coast are being smuggled into Ghana, violating United Nations sanctions and an international industry-wide certification scheme, according to a UN panel report seen by the Financial Times.

The draft report is due to be submitted next week to the UN Security Council, of which Ghana is a non-permanent member.

The council is expected to announce a keenly awaited resolution this month designed to break the political impasse in Ivory Coast's fragile peace process and decide how it should be run after a UN-backed transition expires on October 31.

In a letter to the chairman of the Kimberley Process certification scheme late last month, the World Diamond Council, an influential industry association created to manage the publicity backlash against "blood diamonds", asked the certification body to consider a temporary suspension of all rough diamond exports from Ghana.

The issue is expected to come up at a scheduled Kimberley Process meeting in November. The Kimberley Process, initiated in 2003, was designed to ensure diamond-producing countries applied internal controls to stop conflict diamonds entering export chains.

Ghana was one of the first participants to join in 2003, but is criticised in the UN report for failing to respond to reports, by its own diamond evaluators, of suspicious diamond shipments.

Conflict diamond specialists say other west African countries are also importing Ivorian diamonds.

Global Witness, an influential pressure group, says that if the Kimberley Process cannot demand implementation of tougher controls from governments, it is in danger of becoming "little more than a paper-pushing exercise".

The UN report said diamond authorities in the United Arab Emirates intercepted a Kimberley certified diamond parcel from Ghana in July and concluded the goods were not of Ghanaian origin. The report also said two Belgian dealers specialising in Ivorian diamonds relocated to Ghana after Ivory Coast's conflict began in 2002.

The two men have since become the biggest exporters of rough diamonds from Ghana but are under a separate judicial investigation in Belgium for possible violation of a UN import ban on Ivorian diamonds, the report said.

The report also said two well-known local diamond dealers, one Malian and one Ivorian, with assets in the rebel-occupied town ofSeguela had done regular business with partners in Belgium.

Miners at a large open-cast diamond mine near Seguela told the FT this week that they sold most of their diamonds to agents of the two local dealers, or at a dealership located next to a nearby rebel military camp.

Between 2000 and 2005, Ghana's diamond export levels increased by 210 per cent in value, to $33.9m (£18.1m), while export volumes have risen 60 per cent to more than 1m carats a year, despite certain deposits being mined out slowly.

Experts estimate Ivory Coast's production to be at least 300,000 carats or between $9m and $23m a year. Ghanaian officials say their export figures have increased because they have managed to control the smuggling of Ghanaian diamonds.

Diplomatic sources said Ghana had not commented on the matter despite being aware of the report's findings for some time.

Ivory Coast has been divided into a rebel-held north and government south since a 2002/03 civil war and both rebels and allies of Laurent Gbagbo, the president, have been criticised for using natural resources, including cocoa and oil as well as diamonds, to fund war efforts.

Analysts say the management of the lucrative cocoa and oil sectors - managed by loyalists to Mr Gbagbo - remain opaque.

... No comment from Govt, despite being aware
Diamonds from rebel-controlled areas of Ivory Coast are being smuggled into Ghana, violating United Nations sanctions and an international industry-wide certification scheme, according to a UN panel report seen by the Financial Times.

The draft report is due to be submitted next week to the UN Security Council, of which Ghana is a non-permanent member.

The council is expected to announce a keenly awaited resolution this month designed to break the political impasse in Ivory Coast's fragile peace process and decide how it should be run after a UN-backed transition expires on October 31.

In a letter to the chairman of the Kimberley Process certification scheme late last month, the World Diamond Council, an influential industry association created to manage the publicity backlash against "blood diamonds", asked the certification body to consider a temporary suspension of all rough diamond exports from Ghana.

The issue is expected to come up at a scheduled Kimberley Process meeting in November. The Kimberley Process, initiated in 2003, was designed to ensure diamond-producing countries applied internal controls to stop conflict diamonds entering export chains.

Ghana was one of the first participants to join in 2003, but is criticised in the UN report for failing to respond to reports, by its own diamond evaluators, of suspicious diamond shipments.

Conflict diamond specialists say other west African countries are also importing Ivorian diamonds.

Global Witness, an influential pressure group, says that if the Kimberley Process cannot demand implementation of tougher controls from governments, it is in danger of becoming "little more than a paper-pushing exercise".

The UN report said diamond authorities in the United Arab Emirates intercepted a Kimberley certified diamond parcel from Ghana in July and concluded the goods were not of Ghanaian origin. The report also said two Belgian dealers specialising in Ivorian diamonds relocated to Ghana after Ivory Coast's conflict began in 2002.

The two men have since become the biggest exporters of rough diamonds from Ghana but are under a separate judicial investigation in Belgium for possible violation of a UN import ban on Ivorian diamonds, the report said.

The report also said two well-known local diamond dealers, one Malian and one Ivorian, with assets in the rebel-occupied town ofSeguela had done regular business with partners in Belgium.

Miners at a large open-cast diamond mine near Seguela told the FT this week that they sold most of their diamonds to agents of the two local dealers, or at a dealership located next to a nearby rebel military camp.

Between 2000 and 2005, Ghana's diamond export levels increased by 210 per cent in value, to $33.9m (£18.1m), while export volumes have risen 60 per cent to more than 1m carats a year, despite certain deposits being mined out slowly.

Experts estimate Ivory Coast's production to be at least 300,000 carats or between $9m and $23m a year. Ghanaian officials say their export figures have increased because they have managed to control the smuggling of Ghanaian diamonds.

Diplomatic sources said Ghana had not commented on the matter despite being aware of the report's findings for some time.

Ivory Coast has been divided into a rebel-held north and government south since a 2002/03 civil war and both rebels and allies of Laurent Gbagbo, the president, have been criticised for using natural resources, including cocoa and oil as well as diamonds, to fund war efforts.

Analysts say the management of the lucrative cocoa and oil sectors - managed by loyalists to Mr Gbagbo - remain opaque.

Source: Financial Times
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