Antwerp’s Diamond High Council (HRD) says there is no “hard evidence” for claims by the Washington Post that local dealers are trading diamonds with Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda network.
The Post, quoting European and American intelligence sources, accused two second-cousin Lebanese dealers—Aziz Nassur and Sammy Ossailly—of buying smuggled diamonds from Sierra Leone and al Qaeda.
An HRD statement notes that neither man is a member of an Antwerp bourse, neither had any diamond import or export transactions in the last three years, and neither is associated with an active diamond company.
The local public prosecutor has begun an inquiry into the matter, the statement noted.
Following the article, Ossailly called a press conference to deny the allegations, noting that while he is active in Africa, he does not have a Belgian license. He confirmed that he prospects for diamonds in Liberia but claimed he does not buy stones from the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), the Sierra Leone rebel group accused of funneling stones through Liberia.
In related news, diamond miner Oryx Natural Resources may sue the BBC for falsely identifying one of its shareholders as an Osama bin Laden “front man.” The man’s name is similar to one of the terrorists convicted in the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings. Company operations were shut down for three weeks as the result of the report.
The BBC apologized on-air for the mistake.