A bipartisan group of 11 Congress members has written to the Biden administration and U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellin, asking them to examine the “loophole” that allows Russian-mined diamonds into the country.
The letter, signed by Reps. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and Austin Scott (R-Ga.) and nine other members from both parties, expressed concern that the “sanctions issued by the Treasury Department to target Russia’s diamond industry will have a minimal impact on Alrosa and [Alrosa CEO] Sergei Ivanov’s ability to freely operate on the world market.”
“Experts note a ‘major loophole’ remains in the sanctions regime that allows for importation of diamonds manufactured in India or elsewhere,” the letter said. “Namely, the term ‘Russian Federation origin’ excludes goods ‘substantially transformed in a third country’ and it has long been the view of Customs and Border Protection that the cutting or polishing of diamonds in a third country would qualify as a substantial transformation.
“A recent report on the diamond industry indicated approximately 95% of the world’s diamonds are cut and polished in India. Thus, as it stands at this time, a diamond can be mined by an Alrosa subsidiary, polished or cut in India or another country, and sold to the United States without any prohibition, making a profit for the Russian government.”
The letter asks for three things:
– “The Treasury Department reconsider the interpretation of origin that allows for the importation of diamonds from countries that may cut or polish Alrosa’s diamonds.”
– “The United States should work with its Indian counterparts, as well as those in trading centers such as Dubai, to ensure they are not being used to line the pockets of those closest to Vladimir Putin.”
– “Finally, State and Treasury Departments should provide guidance to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to ensure we prohibit the importation of Russian diamonds into the United States.”
It added: “Luxury goods, especially items like diamonds that are used mainly for export to wealthy nations, should be among the first that Treasury and State Departments consider future action.”
Other signatories include Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Dina Titus (D-Nev.), Neal P. Dunn (R-Fla.), Michael Turner (R-Ohio), Young Kim (R-Calif.), Peter Meijer (R-Mich.), David Trone (D-Md.), Ken Buck (R-Colo.), and James P. McGovern (D-Mass.).
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