March 24, 2000
"Conflict" Diamond Dealers Face Sanctions
The international diamond community turned up the heat on dealers of so-called conflict diamonds this week at the International Rough Diamond Conference in Tel Aviv, Israel. Two decisions announced at the conference will make it extremely difficult for companies to handle diamonds whose sales help fund rebel actions against the governments of several South African nations, including Angola, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo:
- De Beers will sever ties with any sightholders who continue to deal with conflict diamonds, according to Gary Ralfe, De Beers' managing director.
- Representatives of several banks that finance the diamond industry including ABN AMRO and Israel Discount Bank will cease doing business with any clients who deal in conflict diamonds.
The announcements are the industry's latest and harshest actions yet in efforts to avert further controversy and comply with a United Nations resolution banning diamond exports from Africa that benefit rebel forces. Ralfe compared the danger conflict diamonds pose to the jewelry industry to the devestation animal rights protesters wreaked on the fur industry over the past dozen years.
Chaim Even-Zohar, who moderated the conference, agreed. "Conflict diamonds are a tremendous danger to the industry," he said. "Anyone who deals in conflict diamonds is taking a very big risk. As few as 10 companies could take down the entire industry, so everyone has a stake."
- by Ren Miller