Professional Jeweler Archive: New Venture in Angola

May 2000


New Venture in Angola

Israel’s Lev Leviev forms a diamond marketing venture with the Angolan government

Israeli diamond exporter Lev Leviev formed a joint venture with the government of Angola and several Belgian diamantaires to market all of Angola’s government-certified diamonds.

Leviev’s action doesn’t violate U.N. Resolution 1173, which prohibits the sale and export of diamonds by Angola’s rebel force UNITA, because he will buy only diamonds from the legitimate government of Angola.

Leviev, Israel’s second largest diamond exporter and Russia’s largest diamond and jewelry manufacturer, owns substantial Angolan diamond holdings in the Cuango Valley.

The Angolan government recently reformed its system for certifying diamonds. It has promised stricter security procedures will prevent diamonds from UNITA from flowing through official government channels.

Reports from human-rights group Global Witness suggest UNITA will continue to control a large percentage of Angola’s diamonds, however. These could end up being licensed and sold through the government with “proper” certificates of origin, the group worries.

Israeli business newspaper Globes says Leviev plans to market the diamonds through a series of yearly diamond tenders and permanent buyers – not unlike De Beers diamond sight allocations. “It’s just too early to predict how everything will evolve, however,” says Jeffrey Fischer, president of the Diamond Manufacturers & Importers Association of America.

– by Robert Weldon, G.G.

Angola Timeline

Here are a few dates crucial to the Angolan diamonds debate.

Early 1900s
Portugal controls and colonizes Angola’s interior.

Guerilla war starts against Portuguese settlers

Angola gains its independence and is run by the MPLA (aided by the USSR and Cuba). UNITA forms as a Western-influenced opposition force.

Some 50,000 Cuban troops remain in Angola to protect the MPLA government from UNITA.

Cubans withdraw, a peace plan is drawn and multi-party elections are held. MPLA wins. UNITA disputes the results; civil war starts.

A fragile peace agreement is reached between the parties.

Half a million civilians are killed in fighting between the government and guerilla forces. UNITA earns $3.7 billion in illegal diamond sales (Source: Global Witness).

June 1998
The United Nations adopts Resolution 1173 preventing the sale or export of diamonds by UNITA.

October 1999
Global Witness launches a campaign to alert the public about the funding of rebel armies by illegal diamond sales in conflict zones in Africa.

October 1999
De Beers says it will not buy even government-certified Angolan diamonds. Several mining companies say they will withdraw from Angola.

November 1999

  • Rep. Tony Hall (D-OH) introduces a bill seeking disclosure of the source of diamonds imported to the U.S. to identify diamonds from conflict zones.
  • U.S. jewelry industry representatives meet with State Department officials and aides from Hall’s office to explain the industry’s position.
  • The New York Post and the Dallas Morning News pick up the African diamonds’ story.
  • The International Diamond Manufacturers Association announces support of U.N. Resolution 1173.

December 1999
The Diamond Manufacturers & Importers of America announces support for U.N. Resolution 1173.

February 2000

  • De Beers guarantees its rough is not from any area in Africa controlled by forces rebelling against legitimate governments. It also guarantees no rough diamonds in its sight allocations were purchased in violation of U.N. Resolution 1173.
  • Israeli diamantaire Lev Leviev announces a venture with Angola’s government to sell the government’s certified rough diamonds.

– R.W.

Copyright © 2001 by Bond Communications