5% of the world diamond supply is smuggled out of Angola, UN says

More than $350 million worth of diamonds are smuggled out of Angola every year, with UNITA rebels doing a third to a quarter of the smuggling, a U.N. report says in a story filed the Associated Press (AP).

“Smuggled rough diamonds from Angola constitute 5% of the value of the estimated world rough diamond supply for 2000,” a U.N.-appointed panel said in a report Monday to the U.N. Security Council.

In an attempt to force UNITA to end the 25-year civil war in Angola, the council imposed a ban in 1998 on rebel diamond exports that were helping to finance the conflict. Five years earlier, the council imposed an arms and fuel embargo on UNITA.

The Congo and the neighboring Republic of Congo “remain vitally important routes for smugglers,” it said, and “the Antwerp and South African markets are two key points of sale or transit for embargoed diamonds, Israel being used as a laundering route for some imports,” the AP reported.

According to the report, the Angola Selling Corporation, which was created in early 2000 to legally sell the country’s diamonds, informed the panel that between $1 million and $1.2 million of embargoed diamonds leave Angola every day, equivalent to $350 million to $420 million a year, the AP reported. “UNITA probably-but this cannot be proved-sells between 25% and 30% of the illegal diamonds leaving Angola, excluding sales from (its) stockpile whose value cannot be assessed at present,” it said.

The Angolan government told the panel that the majority of illicit Angolan gems are now being smuggled by other players as mining areas previously held by UNITA are recaptured, the report said.

The Angola Selling Corporation recently withdrew the credentials of 400 middlemen “who constitute a major problem,” it noted.

While the sanctions are aimed at UNITA, the panel said the Security Council resolution still prohibits the import from Angola of all diamonds that don’t have government certificates-of-origin.

The United Nations first put the spotlight on illegitimate “blood diamonds” in a March 2000 report that accused the presidents of Burkina Faso and Togo of accepting diamonds from UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi in exchange for illegal weapons or fuel.