Robert Mugabe’s diamond trade with India hit by EU sanctions

ABN Amro has not boycotted Zimbabwe, says Victor Van Der Kwast, chief executive officer of Dutch bank ABN Amro Bank NV's International Diamond and Jewellery Group, clarifying earlier statements he recently made during an international diamond conference in India regarding his bank's refusal to deal with Zimbabwe or its diamond sector.\r\n

Speaking to the Times of India, Kwast said that his bank is evening planning to organize a trade delegation along with European government representatives to visit Zimbabwe "to resolve the issue." 

Kwast’s public clarification has come after the newspaper earlier reported that the 1,500 diamantires composing India’s Surat Rough Diamond Sourcing Limited (SRDSIL) plan to approach Indian banks for financial help since Kwast and Pierre de Bosscher, chairman of the executive committee of the Antwerp Diamond Bank (ADB), both declared their banks’ unwillingness to finance international diamond transactions with Zimbabwe due to reputation concerns. Their statements were made during a session about Bank Finance on the second day of the "Mines to Market" conference in Mumbai last week.

De Bosscher had stated at the conference that the ADB would not finance diamond transactions with Zimbabwe while the country was, among other issues, still on the OFAC (European sanctions) list and under an EU trade embargo, reports SW Radio Africa. He also said that the bank was not even willing to finance "roundabout transactions" in South African rands or Hong Kong dollars, because it wouldn’t be good for the transparency of the industry, cites the news source.

However, in an effort to resolve the issue, Kwast has now clarified to the Times of India that his bank is not hostile to Zimbabwe and wants to help the Zimbabwean government in exploiting its vast diamond resources. "But since we operate in Europe, we have to follow the rules and regulations and the European Union’s sanctions on Zimbabwe. We want to assure the diamond people in Zimbabwe and India, especially Surat that we will take a trade delegation to Zimbabwe to resolve the issue," he told the news source by phone from Amsterdam.

He also said that financing for the SRDSIL would need to come from both the Indian banks as well as ABM Amro, "in tandem to satisfy the financing needs of the diamond sector." According to Kwast, ABN Amro is the second largest bank in terms of bank financing in the Indian gems and jewelry industry after the State Bank of India.

International diamond dealers have been warned against dealing with diamonds mined in Zimbabwe’s Marange diamond area, because the mining parastatal, Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC), which is involved in 50:50 joint ventures with Marange’s two currently licensed and operating mining companies, Canadile and Mbada, is still on both European and U.S. sanctions lists. Legally, American and European diamond groups are restricted from dealing with the ZMDC or, by extension, its joint venture partners, Mbada and Canadile. – DiamondIntelligence