So, after talking to the Custom Service, I can give you this detail on this weekend’s “blood diamond” seizure at JFK Airport …
This is not a sign that border patrol is getting more aggressive in monitoring rough diamonds, the Customs Service says. In fact, most industry people are compliant with the law, its spokeswoman told me.
What happened was, two people, described as “jewelers,” declared the diamonds, which they said were from Sierra Leone. And while they told the Customs officers they had Kimberley Process certificates, a search didn’t turn up any. And so $800,000 in rough was seized.
Since this wasn’t a smuggling case, no criminal charges were filed (and the jewelers’ names weren’t released.) But they lost their stones (seen below), and will have to go through legal processes to get them back.
“They may be able to come back later and produce the certificates but they may face a penalty because of it,” says Customs Service spokeswoman Lucille Cirillo.
And finally, even though this bust is being described as a “blood diamond” seizure, since the diamonds came from Sierra Leone, now at peace, they likely were not blood diamonds. But if they were taken out of Sierra Leone illegally – meaning without Kimberley certificates – that cheats the government out of tax revenue, and of course, weakens the system.
This is actually the second diamond-related bust at JFK in recent months. In December, officers stopped a man carrying $1.2 million in undeclared diamonds.
In any case, this is another warning, that people in this industry have to obey the laws. Because the law is watching us.