Sierra Leone has put border guards on alert after hearing rumors that a massive diamond was unearthed this week and that dealers may smuggle it out of the country, senior government officials said Thursday.
“The Ministry of Mineral Resources has put all security measures in place to trace the whereabouts of an alleged 1,000-ct. diamond said to have been found on April 22,” a senior official at the ministry told Reuters.
If true, the gem would be the second largest ever found. The biggest would remain the 3,107-ct. “Cullinan” diamond found in South Africa in 1905, followed at the moment by the 995-ct. “Excelsior” gem and the 969-ct. “Star of Sierra Leone.”
“The ministry has been informed some top diamond magnates in West Africa have entered Sierra Leone with the aim of getting the alleged diamond out,” the ministry official told Reuters. “Border security forces together with the immigration authorities have also been put on alert.”
Most of Sierra Leone’s diamonds are shipped to Antwerp, the world’s biggest market for uncut diamonds.
A certification system was set up in 2000 with United Nations help to stem the flow of conflict diamonds and the government is eager to ensure gems are exported officially.
According to figures released this week legal exports in 2001 were worth $26 million, more than twice the $10.1 million in 2000 and more than 20 times the $1.2 million in 1999, Reuters reported.
A 110-ct. diamond found in the east of Sierra Leone and worth more than $1 million was exported recently to Europe through official channels.
Foday Yukella, deputy minister of mineral resources, said he had heard that the diamond allegedly discovered this week was only 102 rather than 1,000 cts., Reuters reported.
“But as a government we are undertaking a massive search for the whereabouts of such a diamond,” he told Reuters. “We have always said as a government that legal diamond dealers are free to transact their diamond business legally without fear, and, by doing so, the government is in a position to protect them.”
The Cullinan diamond was cut up to create several fine gems, including the world’s largest, the Star of Africa (530.2 cts.), now in the royal scepter of the British crown jewels.