Golden Sibanda Senior Business Reporter
GOVERNMENT is taking legal action to secure release of the remainder of diamonds that were seized while on auction in Belgium following litigation by a South African firm.
This comes after a Belgian court in December last year ruled in favour of Zimbabwe and ordered the release of the entire lot attached following the litigation filed by Amari Platinum.
Mines and Mining Development Minister Walter Chidhakwa on Friday said that most of the diamonds that had been attached in Belgium had since been shipped back to Zimbabwe.
However, he said that the Belgium Sheriff’s Department withheld the portion of the precious stones belonging to Marange Resources, a State-owned diamond mining company.
This was despite the fact that when the judge delivered the ruling on the matter, the judgment was in respect of the entirety of the gems including Marange Resources’ lot.
The diamonds, amounting to 500 000 carats, also included lots for Mbada Diamonds, Diamond Mining Company and Jinan, which mine in Chiadzwa, eastern Zimbabwe.
While a value of $45 million has been bandied around as the estimated value of the stones, Minister Chidhakwa said their true value can only be ascertained after they are auctioned.
“The judge made a determination that the diamonds did not belong to Government, but to the companies and ordered that they be returned to the respective companies,” he said.
The judgment was delivered last December after a successful legal challenge executed by a team of Zimbabwean lawyers led by renowned Harare lawyer Mr Farai Mutamangira.
Minister Chidhakwa said while the gems were meant to be auctioned in Antwerp, after what happened, it was decided that they be returned home at the first opportunity.
But he said the office of the Sheriff in Belgium did not release the consignment belonging to Marange Resources, a decision over which Government is now seeking to challenge.
The diamonds that have been brought back from Belgium would be auctioned together with other local gems on the country’s fledgling diamond exchange located in Harare.
Amari Platinum sought permission to attach the diamonds following the cancellation by Government of the firm’s platinum mining licence over delays in implementing its mining project.
A group of Dutch farmers whose land was reposed by Government for resettlement under the land reform programme, later also filed its own order to attach the diamonds.
Zimbabwe, which is also host the world’s second biggest platinum deposits, is estimated to have potential to supply 25 percent of diamonds that are traded on global markets.