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ROUGH DIAMONDS

Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic. (Photo credit: Wikicommons)

SHADOWY RUSSIAN MERCENARY GROUP CHARGED
WITH TRADING IN CONFLICT DIAMONDS FROM CAR

 

A report in a Belgian daily newspaper, associating a shadowy Russian mercenary force involved in the war in Ukraine with the trade of conflict diamonds, has highlighted the caution that needs to be exercised in handling gemstones and other minerals that may have originated from the Central African Republic (CAR).

The article, which was published recently in De Standaard, reported that parties acting on behalf of the Wagner Group are exporting diamonds from the CAR though a shell company called Diamville, violating the rules of the Kimberley Process. Its report was based on information received from two groups, the French based-based All Eyes on Wagner and the London-based Dossier Center, which is sponsored by exiled Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky and European Investigative Collaborations, a network of news organizations.

The Wagner Group, which more recently has achieved notoriety because of its active involvement on behalf of Russia in the fighting in the Donbas region of Ukraine, is controlled by another Russian oligarch, Yevgeny Viktorovich Prigozhin, who is a close confidant of Russian president Vladimir Putin. He also is believed to have been involved in the Russian hacking of U.S. elections in 2016 and 2018.

According to an investigation by Germany’s Der Spiegel, Prigozhin’s operations “are tightly integrated with Russia’s Defence Ministry and its intelligence arm, the GRU.”

A Central African Republic combatant wearing the insignia of the Wagner Group. (Photo credit: Wikicommons)

CHARGES OF WESTERN PROPOGANDA

Wagner Group mercenaries have been actively involved in a number of African countries, most prominently CAR and Madagascar.

In CAR, a Prigozhin associated company Lobaye Invest is known to been engaged in the mining of diamonds, gold, and other minerals since 2018.

 

The De Standaard article alleged that mercenaries associated with the Wagner Group were forcing artisanal miners in CAR wither to turn over or sell their goods exclusively to Diamville, which in turn exports them in violation of Kimberley Process practices to a diamond trading center.

In November 2019, Diamville is allegedly exported €132,000 of diamonds to Belgium. That, of course, preceded the war in Ukraine.

Speaking on behalf of the Antwerp World Diamond Center, the umbrella organization that represents the industry in Belgium, spokesperson Tom Neys rejected the notion that any Belgian company is currently involved in purchasing goods connected the Wagner Group.

“As far as we know, Diamville trades exclusively with Dubai,” Neys stated. Diamville is not part of the Antwerp trading environment and it [therefore] goes without saying that the company’s possible ties [to the Wagner group] are not on our radar.”

 

When asked by the Washingon Post about the charges of dealing in conflict diamonds and host of other atrocities, Prigozhin also issued a denial. ““Everything you have listed is unsubstantiated Western propaganda,” he stated.  We have already presented our reports, which state that Russian instructors and other citizens of the Russian Federation have never carried out the above activities, namely, they have never been engaged in the sale of diamonds from conflict zones outside the norms of the Kimberley Process and have not participated in massacres and attacks on civilians.”

ONLY KNOWN SOURCE OF CONFLICT DIAMONDS

CAR is the only country in the world today considered to be a source of conflict diamonds, as defined by the Kimberley Process. The civil war in the country began in December 2012, when forces of the Seleka faction attacked government forces, eventually overthrowing it in March 2013. In response to reports that the rebels had been funded by the sale of alluvial rough diamonds, the KP announced it was suspending CAR’s membership in its certification scheme, making it illegal for all other member countries to permit diamond exports from that country.

In June 2016, following the election eight months earlier of President Faustin-Archange Touadera, CAR resumed limited exports of rough diamonds, according to a program developed with the KP, which was supported by the United Nations. The program dictated that the only diamonds that been mined in “green” compliant zones would be eligible for export with a KP certificate issued by the CAR government.

Russian BRDM-2 armored vehicles arriving in the Central African Republic in October 2020. (Photo credit: Wikicommons)

The green zones, which today number eight, are in areas under secure CAR-government control, and where the KP also has determined that there can be no evidence of armed rebel group activity, free movement is permitted of persons in and out of the area, and mechanisms have been put in place by the government to monitor diamond production and the diamond trade.

All KPCS-certified rough diamonds from the CAR needed to be approved for export by the Kimberley Process’ specially designated CAR Monitoring Team and any rough stone from a parcel that is deemed to have originated from CAR and is not accompanied by a KPCS certificate has to be suspected as a conflict diamond, and should not be traded.

Prior to the 2022 KP Plenary meeting in Botswana, that CAR had applied to have the number of green zones in the country increased to 16, but it was a move that was vehemently objected to by the World Diamond Council, the industry’s representative in the KP.

“Since 2021 KP Plenary, no written report has been received by the CAR Monitoring Team from the UN Panel of Experts regarding the political and security situation on the ground,” said WDC President Edward Asscher speaking to the Plenary on November 1. “For those reasons we cannot recommend approving the requests for any new compliant sub-prefectures that were submitted by the CAR Government for approval. That will only be possible when the newly appointed Panel of Experts has completed its work on the ground and the Review Mission has taken place, under safe conditions for all participants.”