Tanzanite: Lawsuit Dropped, L.A. Times Challenged

“The lawsuit reported in the Wall Street Journal Feb. 15 has ended,” says Rick Krementz, owner of Richard Krementz Gemstones, Newark, N.J. Krementz is a member of the four-person Tanzanite Task Force Steering Committee, which is working on several fronts to help restore confidence in the gem. The lawsuit, brought by victims of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, sought more than a billion dollars from Osama bin Laden, assorted confederates, and STS Jewels, a New York-based jewelry company that specializes in tanzanite. “The lawsuit alleged that STS was liable for the events of Sept. 11 because part of its business is in tanzanite,” writes Krementz.

On March 16, STS filed a motion for dismissal, stating there was no legal basis for the suit. Sunil Agrawal, CEO of STS, described the suit as “frivolous and possibly even malicious.” The plaintiffs were preparing a response to the motion but by mid-April had dropped the suit against STS.

In other news, the Los Angeles Times on March 20 published an article on tanzanite and its alleged link to the al Qaeda terrorist organization. Douglas Hucker, executive director of the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA) and chairman of the Tanzanite Task Force Steering Committee, responded with a letter to the newspaper that said the article “creates a grossly misleading impression” because of “two major errors of omission.” Hucker’s letter cited statements made by the U.S. State Department that there is currently “no evidence” of a link between tanzanite and terrorism and “no evidence that illicit tanzanite sales played any part in financing the terrorist atrocities of Sept. 11.”

The letter notes that the Tanzanite Task Force “is implementing a program endorsed by all segments of the industry, here and abroad, to safeguard the tanzanite supply chain from possible abuse” and says the L.A. Times article “reports none of these developments.”

The steering committee has asked retail jewelers to refer any media requests to Hucker at AGTA, Cecilia Gardner at the Jewelers Vigilance Committee, or Matt Runci at Jewelers of America.