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India Arrests Two Found In Possession of Smuggled Zimbabwean Diamonds


Reports from India said its Revenue Intelligence Directorate arrested Zohra Desai, 53, and Prema Desai, 49, both Indian nationals, with a 9.72 kilogram or 48,663 carat consignment of rough diamonds valued at some $2 million

Indian authorities are reported to have arrested two men for smuggling $2 million worth of diamonds from Zimbabwe's Marange field into the city of Surat last week.

Reports from India said its Revenue Intelligence Directorate arrested Zohra Desai, 53, and Prema Desai, 49, both Indian nationals, with a 9.72 kilogram or 48,663 carat consignment of rough diamonds valued at some $2 million.

The two failed to produce the required Kimberly Process certificate for the rough stones, the directorate said. The two are alleged to have smuggled the diamonds from Zimbabwe through Kenya to Mumbai and were caught trying to sell the stones in Surat.

Surat, a world diamond trading and cutting center, was the scene of a similar arrest in 2008 when Robai Hussain and Yusuf Ossely were apprehended with $1 million worth of smuggled Marange diamonds. The two were sentenced to four years in prison.

The arrests in Surat come amid growing tension within the Kimberly Process over the process that should be required for the export sale of Marange diamonds.

Kimberley Process Chairman Mathieu Yamba of the Democratic Republic of the Congo declared last month that Zimbabwe was free to sell its stones. But Western members of the watchdog group objected. An agreement on the matter is under consideration.

Zimbabwean Deputy Mines Minister Gift Chimanikire said preventing smuggling remains a top priority - but added that there are vasts tracts of unprotected diamond fields.

"People are digging illegally in those areas although law enforcement agencies are trying to patrol [them]," Chimanikire said. Chimanikire added that Zimbabwe is trying to phase out military control of the Marange field to meet Kimberly Process requirements.

"In those areas where we are operating, the private security firms are in charge," Chimanikire says, referring to an area mined by five companies from China, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates. "Outside the designated area, we still have problems.”

Chimanikire suggests that the diamonds confiscated in Surat may not have been smuggled out of Marange recently but could be part of a stockpile amassed by a group of diamond-extraction workers fired last year or even before 2006.

But Executive Director Farai Maguwu of the Center for Research and Development in Mutare, near the Marange field, said arrests in Surat come as no surprise.

He said a lack of political will is largely responsible for smuggling of diamonds which he says must be coming from the protected zones due to the quantities involved.

"One can tell that these diamonds are not coming from small scale miners," Maguwu said. "They are coming from companies which are licensed to mine these diamonds."

Maguwu, a prominent critic of the government's Marange development policies, said the volume of diamonds seized also suggests complicity on the part of officials.

"When you look at the security systems at Air Zimbabwe it shows there must be...high-ranking officials who facilitated the smuggling of these diamonds out of the country."

Maguwu called for stronger Zimbabwean institutions to help the government protect the diamond mines, which he says should be generating revenue for the country.

"There are some senior government officials who may be doing their best, but as long as we do not have institutions that can guarantee transparency and accountability, those efforts will come to nothing," Maguwu said.

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