January 18, 2002
WSJClaims Proof of Tanzanite/al Qaeda Link, U.S.Task Force Says No Proof Yet
The Wall Street Journal published a third story reporting tanzanite is linked to the al Qaeda terrorist network Jan. 17 . The article refers to a diary belonging to Wadih el Hage, who was arrested following the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. He was convicted last year of involvement in a terrorist conspiracy following a trial in New York City.
El Hage's diary, chronicling his efforts to sell tanzanite, was seized by the FBI a year before the bombings. "It is the strongest documentary evidence to date of the bin Laden network's involvement in the trade of the velvety blue gemstone from East Africa," reports WSJ. "The documents indicate that the trip resulted in deals for a gemstone called tanzanite, laying the foundation for what U.S.investigators suspect is a lucrative gem trading business for al Qaeda."
However, on Jan. 15, jewelry trade representatives reported on their meetings with a National Security Council counter-terrorism task force official. The official said that while investigations are ongoing, he had not yet developed any information to substantiate the allegations of a link between tanzanite and al Qaeda ("Nothing Proven in Tanzanite Allegations," Jan. 16).
The diary, reports WSJ, says el Hage traveled to Antwerp, where his attempts to sell tanzanite were rebuffed. In London, the article says, attempts at selling the gem also went poorly. El Hage later went to London jewelry store Holts, "the only one at Hatton Garden that deals with semi-precious stones like tanz," says the diary. There is no confirmation, however, that a transaction took place. El Hage was referred to another store, Capital Gems. "Will buy around Sept.," el Hage notes, but no deal was reported. He traveled to Los Angeles, and writes he met with a San Francisco gem dealer from Afghan Gems & Minerals Inc. "Will buy rough, he is willing to come over to Nairobi. Any amount of raw, $60, $80, up to $100/gram." The diary does not say a sale took place. There is no example published in WSJ from the diary detailing any sale of tanzanite.
Professional Jeweler obtained a document entered as an exhibit in the embassy bombings case held in New York City. It notes that el Hage tried unsuccessfully to establish a non-governmental organization in East Africa. " After realizing that he could not support himself and his family through NGO work, el Hage entered into business for himself selling the gemstone tanzanite," the document states. The wording of the exhibit, though signaling a connection between el Hage and tanzanite, does not say the al Qaeda organization entered the tanzanite business to raise funds.
by Robert Weldon, G.G.