FBI Holding Forum on Diamond Money Laundering

The event aims at stopping diamonds from being used in terrorist financing

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), in conjunction with Europol, Interpol, the National Police of the Netherlands, the U.S. State Dept., and the World Customs Organization, is sponsoring a two-day event on the role diamonds play in money laundering and terrorist financing.

The event, held in The Hague, the Netherlands, “will focus on the exploitation of the diamond trade and diamonds being used as a vehicle for trade based money laundering, terrorist financing, and similar nefarious purposes,” said an invite. “The forum will provide a platform for information sharing, networking, and building law enforcement partnerships that will lead to the identification, dismantling, and disruption of criminal networks associated with the illicit trade in diamonds.”

FBI supervisory special agent Eric B. Ives says that law enforcement has been gradually realizing that diamonds are vulnerable to exploitation to criminals.

“Historically, the first sort of recognition a problem would be [former Liberian president] Charles Taylor, recently convicted of war crimes,” says Ives, who also heads global threat financing for transnational organized crime, Eastern hemisphere section. “But for diamonds you would never heard of Charles Taylor.”

But Ives become most interested in the case of Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the former al-Qaida terrorist who left to form a competing group, eventually taking 800 hostages in Algeria.

“He used diamonds and tobacco as financing,” Ives says. “But for diamonds and tobacco you would have never heard of Mokhtar Belmokhtar.”

The forum will build on the work that Gemological Institute of America has done with law enforcement in its annual seminars.

“When you sit with someone behind a microscope, you build relationships,” Ives says. “Sometimes that turns into an exchange of intelligence.”

He gives a hypothetical example of how industry information is useful: “If you have a Pink Panther robbery, and you go to an interview and see a millimeter gauge on the table, the interview is forever changed. You are probably at the right house.”

The forum also aims to allow law enforcement to spot “supply chain anomalies” that are indicators of illicit trade, Ives says.

“One of the greatest criticisms of law enforcement after 9/11 was a failure of imagination,” he says. “We are trying to be more imaginative in how we track how money moves around the world.”

JCK News Director