We reveal the dirty secret behind the glitter of Europe’s diamond trade – and the reluctant campaign to clean it up.
Raw diamonds have been purchased from war zones in Africa and the money used by the warring factions to buy arms – fuelling bloody conflicts.
A U.N. investigation pointed the finger of blame at dealers in one European city in particular – Antwerp, Belgium. But what has been done since to stop the flow of so-called “Blood Diamonds”? It’s an industry based on handshakes, verbal agreements, secrecy and a code of honour. For centuries the business has been practised most skilfully in Antwerp.
Belgium takes tremendous pride in its diamond business. 80% of the world’s uncut diamonds pass through the country. There are rigorous regulations to ensure quality and security. Every package of rough diamonds entering Belgium is inspected by customs agents.
But until 2001, few questions were asked about where the diamonds came from. The trade’s dirty little industrial secret was that raw diamonds mined in African war zones were being bought by European gem dealers who cut, mounted and sold them to the public.
The profits went back to Angola and Sierra Leone to buy weapons. Conflict diamonds account for only about four per cent of the world market, yet that’s plenty of money – millions – to arm and supply rebel troops… keep a civil war going.
The U.N. is clamping down and say that if the diamond industry wants to profit from love, they have to pay more attention to war.