British government clears De Beers of conflict diamonds allegations

The British government said Friday that it had cleared De Beers of allegations that it was connected to the conflict diamonds trade in Congo, the London Telegraph reports.

The U.K. Department for Trade and Industry said allegations by the United Nations two years ago that the company illegally exploited natural resources in the war-torn African country were unsubstantiated, the newspaper reports.

The U.N. had claimed that De Beers violated western business guidelines for multinational best practice—and its own code of practice—when three of its customers exported diamonds from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 2000.

De Beers was not buying diamonds from the DRC at the time, but the U.N. said that its association with these companies encouraged their trade with dubious mining sources in the DRC, where war has claimed about 2.5 million lives.

The Department for Trade and Industry reportedly said there was no evidence that De Beers had contributed to the war. Many observers fear that war and unrest in areas such as Angola, Sierra Leone, and the DRC have been fuelled by the trade in conflict diamonds. The U.N. has long campaigned against the trade and has backed the Kimberley Process, which encourages countries to prevent it.

The department reportedly said that the U.N. had failed to provide enough plausible evidence to support its claims against De Beers.

It reportedly said that De Beers had written to the U.N. challenging the claims, but received no reply. The UN later placed De Beers in a list of companies that had allegedly breached international business guidelines.

Other companies were also named in the U.N. report, and their cases have yet to be examined by the department. They include Hambros Bank, Oryx Resources, and Mineral Afrika. Barclays Bank was also named in an initial report, but removed later.

De Beers said Friday’s news was an important step in the company’s fight to maintain its reputation, and added that it intended to seek an apology from the U.N.