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Kimberly Probe Into Alleged Zimbabwe Diamond Smuggling Begins

A probe into alleged illegal trading in Zimbabwean diamonds was set to move ahead on with a meeting between the European ambassador to Harare and representatives of River Ranch Mine in Beitbridge, implicated in the alleged illicit diamond traffic.

The probe by the Kimberly Process, currently chaired by the EU Commission, follows a complaint from the World Diamond Council in New York saying gems from Zimbabwe have been exported without Kimberly certification. The diamonds are allegedly being smuggled through South Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The Kimberley Process is a joint government, international diamond industry and civil society initiative to stem the flow of conflict diamonds, that is, rough diamonds which rebel movements use to finance wars against legitimate governments

Officials from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and the Ministry of Mines descended on the Beitbridge mine last week after the EU expressed concern at the allegations.

Lawyer Terrence Hussein, representing Bubye Mines, in litigation with River Ranch over the ownership of the Beitbridge mine, declined to comment on the probe.

Minister of Mines Amos Midzi also declined to comment. But reports said he visited the Beitbridge mine Thursday and dismissed allegations of illicit dealings, saying the EU is using the diamond issue as a pretext for tightening sanctions against Harare.

River Ranch advisor George Smith confirmed his clients were to meet EU Ambassador Xavier Marshall, but said it was not true that they had been summoned.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...