by Varsha Gupta d'Souza
(IPS) JOHANNESBURG --
United Nations, in a report, which was made public last week, has linked diamond marketing and mining giant De Beers to the looting of the Democratic Republic of Congo's (DRC) natural resources.
The report on Congo said the diamond producer had breached guidelines on multinational enterprises as a result of the alleged rough diamond buying activities of two of its clients, or sightholders.
A breach of international guidelines and continued diamond smuggling, questions the DRC's four-month-old membership of the Kimberly Process.
It also threatens to throw the fledgling certification scheme into disrepute.
Defending his company, Director Jonathan Oppenheimer said that De Beers had been found guilty by association, adding that they had submitted a response to the panel, refuting the allegations and outlining their lack of involvement in their sightholders purchasing activities.
Unfortunately, said Oppenheimer, De Beers' name was retained in the panel's final report, placed before the UN Security Council last month, under a section entitled "unresolved cases."
"We have no idea how our name remained in the report when we were assured that our explanation was appropriate. We also don't know the criteria that got the names of other companies removed from the list," he said.
De Beers Communications Director Rory More O'Ferrall said his firm asked the panel of independent analysts, who compiled the report, for clarification on the matter last October after being named in the document, but received no reply.
De Beers, which accounts for about 60 percent of the world's rough diamond trade, had explained to Mahmoud Kassem, chairman of the panel, earlier this year that it was not responsible for managing or supervising sightholders' purchases of rough diamonds.
The panel's conclusion had tarnished De Beers' reputation on the basis of third party actions, Oppenheimer said.
The DRC is the third-largest country in Africa. Its official diamond exports total around $400 million a year, or 60 percent of the its total export earnings.
But diamonds worth $450 million, roughly half the country's annual production, are believed to be smuggled out of the country.
The UN is concerned that these smuggled gems are being used to fund armed opposition groups.
November 5, 2003 (http://www.albionmonitor.net) All Rights Reserved. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for permission to use in any format.
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