Press Release / Dec. 16, 1998

Why De Beers could and should be doing better

“De Beers’ press release of the 15 December entitled “Response to the Global Witness Report ‘A Rough Trade’1 fails to address key concerns raised in the report, and by the international press, and is an inadequate and disappointing response.” Charmian Gooch, Campaigner, Global Witness2.

Will De Beers clarify the number of changes they have made to their operating structure to ensure that no unofficial Angolan diamonds are being acquired by the Central Selling Organisation? This is a key point, which the company’s press release has totally failed to address, because:
1. The predominantly high value of Angolan diamonds means they are in demand within the industry.
2. The complexity of the ‘outside’ (unofficial) market makes it difficult to ensure that none of the Angolan diamonds being purchased are of unofficial origin.

De Beers states that “ fully supports both the letter and spirit of the UN Resolution 1173.” Can the company clarify precisely how it is doing this, particularly in the light of the comment “If you are sitting in Tel Aviv or Moscow or New York whatever the potential for positive identification you have not a clue where they [the diamonds] come from. Just to be clear if he [the diamond seller] says they are Scottish diamonds, you take his word for it...they could be diamonds from the moon.”. This comment was made to Global Witness by two De Beers staff in London on 1 December 1998.

De Beers states their “...buyers have refused (and will continue to do so) diamonds without certificates.” Will De Beers clarify what quantity and value, and the locations at which these diamonds were turned away, since the UN embargo came into force on 1 July 19983. Given the importance of the ‘outside’ market and the need to maintain prices it seems only logical that De Beers would keep such a record; if they have failed to do this, it should be implemented forthwith.

Global Witness does not question that De Beers has a “...commitment to the legitimate diamond business in Angola”, and indeed elsewhere. It is for this reason that Global Witness has challenged De Beers to take the lead within the diamond industry, which it dominates, to develop a more accountable way of operating which tightens controls on ‘outside’ goods from conflict zones. Given the current situation in Angola the urgency for such drastic change is clear and cannot be avoided.

Notes to Editor:
1. De Beers press release, “Response to the Global Witness Report ‘A Rough Trade’, 15 December 1998.
2. Global Witness Ltd. is a UK investigative human rights and environment not-for-profit oganisation which has built up a reputation for its investigations and lobby work on the illegal trade in timber in Cambodia and the way in which that has funded the conflict. It is non-partisan.
3. The UN embargo: The UN Security Council Resolution 1173 which came into force on1 July 1998 includes the following section “12.(b)to prohibit the direct or indirect import from Angola to their territory of all diamonds that are not controlled through the Certificate of Origin regime of the GURN”.