May 5, 2004
Diamonds & Terrorism Book Published
A new book on the link between the diamond trade and terrorist group al Qaeda, Blood From Stones: The Secret Financial Network of Terror was written by Douglas Farah, the Washington Post reporter who broke the story in late 2001. The book was released May 4 by Broadway Books.
Farah covers no new ground concerning the diamonds-al Qaeda link in the book, essentially telling an extended version of the stories written on the subject for WP. He says his reports were corroborated by European investigators, the non-governmental organization Global Witness, the United Nations and the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of the U.S. Congress, though all of these corroborations have also been extensively reported in the consumer and trade press (the Social & Ethical Issues Archive has a chronologic accounting of the reports).
Farah says the Central Intelligence Agency and other offices of the Bush administration continue to deny the diamonds-terrorism link, which he contends is due to general government defensiveness that it ignored evidence about suspicious terrorist activities, including diamond buying, in the run-up to the U.S. terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The ground Farah's book re-covers details how al Qaeda operatives cornered the market on diamonds mined in Sierra Leone in the spring and summer of 2001, with the help of former Liberian President Charles Taylor. It occurred when Sierra Leone was still in chaos following its long rebel-instigated war. Farah says al Qaeda ultimately bought diamonds valued at $50 million, according to his estimates (a late 2002 European investigation of the same evidence pegged the value at $20 million). All the investigators on this subject agree al Qaeda was looking for untraceable and portable storehouses of wealth that summer, in anticipation of the Sept. 11 attacks, after which the group knew traditional bank accounts would be frozen by governments. Investigators still have no idea where the al Qaeda-purchased diamonds are, whether they continue to fund al Qaeda, or whether any of the tainted stones have been sold or re-integrated into the legitimate diamond trade.
Though he mentions the Kimberley Process Certificaton Scheme briefly, Farah doesn't discuss how the international import/export control system was set up to prevent tainted diamonds from re-entering the trade. Critical of the diamond industry's efforts to stop conflict diamonds, Farah says "little of substance has been done" by the World Diamond Council. He does not mention WDC's role in the Kimberley Process. He quotes U.S. Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA) as saying the Clean Diamond Trade Act of 2003, which enables the U.S. government to take part in the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, "doesn't really do anything ... I think the lobbying efforts of the diamond industry were very effective."
Farah also says Wolf and former congressman Tony Hall, two longtime advocates of conflict diamond bans, believe "only a widespread boycott of all diamonds would force the diamond industry and legislative bodies to take serious measures." Farah quotes Wolf as saying "until there is an economic boycott, something that will bring pain to the diamond industry, nothing significant will be done ... until then, whatever [legislation] passes will be insignificant and will serve to give them a fig leaf to hide behind. If you brought business to its knees, you could then legislate."
Farah's book also details reports that gold traded through unregulated hawala money networks and certain Islamic charities have been manipulated to fund al Qaeda and launder its money. It briefly reviews long-denied allegations of a link between terrorism and tanzanite. The book does not cover the USA Patriot Act or its pending regulations that will require businesses in the jewelry industry to institute anti-money laundering programs to detect and prevent exploitation by those with criminal intent.
by Peggy Jo Donahue