Diamonds / Industry / Legal

Former Kimberley Process Chair Can’t Enter United States


Bernhardt Esau (pictured), who chaired the Kimberley Process (KP) when it split over the issue of Zimbabwe exports, has been barred from entering the United States because of his involvement in “significant corruption,” according to a June 15 release from the U.S. Department of State.

While his tenure as KP chair often pit him against the United States, the current action has seemingly little to do with those decade-old events, but rather stems from a scandal that popped up during his tenure as Namibia’s minister of fisheries and marine resources.  

In 2009, Esau chaired the Kimberley Process while serving as Namibia’s deputy minister of mines and energy. (He became minister of fisheries and marine resources the following year.)

During his year at the KP’s helm, the certification scheme ran into controversy when violence broke out in the Marange diamond fields in Zimbabwe, with participants bitterly divided over what measures to take against the country.

At the controversy’s height, Esau reportedly told Zimbabwe media that a damning report from a KP review mission to Marange should “not be taken seriously.” He later denied making those comments.

Nongovernmental organizations were not fans of Esau’s tenure, with a Kimberly Process Civil Society Coalition statement asserting that “leadership and direction…[have] been so conspicuously absent throughout [2009].”  

In 2019, Esau and the country’s minister of justice, Sakeus Shanghala, resigned after allegations arose that they had accepted bribes from Samherji, an Iceland fishing company. Shortly after, they were arrested, along with a number of associates.

Esau has denied the allegations, which he called an attempt to tarnish his name. In March, he was denied bail, making a trip to the United States unlikely regardless of the State Department action.

The order also bans members of Esau’s family from entering the United States.

“This designation reaffirms the U.S. commitment to supporting anticorruption reforms that are key to Namibia’s successful future,” said the State Department notice. “The Department will continue to use authorities like this to promote accountability for corrupt actors in this region and globally.”

(Photo courtesy of the government of Namibia)

Follow JCK on Instagram: @jckmagazine
Follow JCK on Twitter: @jckmagazine
Follow JCK on Facebook: @jckmagazine

By: Rob Bates

Log Out

Are you sure you want to log out?

CancelLog out