Guyanese and Lebanese nationals jailed in India over Zimbabwean 'blood diamonds'

SURAT, INDIA – In the first conviction of its kind, the Chief Court in Surat, India on Thursday sentenced a Guyanese and a Lebanese national to four years imprisonment and ordered them to pay a fine of Rs1 lakh, in a case related to Zimbabwean blood diamonds.

The Times of India says the accused have decided to challenge the verdict at a higher court.

Justice VG Trivedi found Robai Hussain, a Guyanese and Yusuf Ossley, a resident of Lebanon, guilty of possessing blood diamonds. Both deposited fines in the court, late on Thursday evening.

"Such crimes have an impact on the economy and therefore affect the lives of the common man directly and/or indirectly. Both accused have breached the law and it was necessary to punish them," Justice Trivedi said, while passing the judgment.

The report said that the judge pronounced the verdict after hearing 13 witnesses and verifying 67 pieces of evidence in the case. The court has ordered the auction of the diamonds also.

The World Diamond Council made Kimberly certification compulsory to ensure that such banned diamonds do not become a part of legal trade.

Guyana has also come under scrutiny over the Kimberly Protocol as there have been concerns that Venezuelan diamonds have been laundered through Guyana.

A report in the Indian Express said that Hussain and Ossley were picked up and arrested during a raid by Directorate of Revenue Intelligence sleuths at their room in Arpan Apartments at Rampura in Surat on September 19, 2008.

They were found to be carrying diamonds worth Rs 3.85 crore without a certification from Kimberly Process.

The report said that during interrogation, they confessed to having bought diamonds from Zimbabwe for sale into the local market in Surat.

"Surat in particular and India in general have proved to the international watchdogs that we act tough when it comes to blood diamond trade," said Chandrakant Sanghavi, regional director of Gems and Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC), said in a Times of India report.

"This is the first time in the world that the blood diamond case has been dealt with strictly and the culprits have been sent behind bars," said Sanghavi.

The report pointed out that India is one of the founding members of the Kimberly Protocol.

"All the rough diamonds imported to India, particularly in Surat is done with KP certificate. Since Surat is the world’s biggest diamond cutting and polishing hub, human rights watchdogs have reasons to believe that it is the final destination for the blood diamonds. But the conviction of two foreign nationals proves that India acts tough when it comes to blood diamonds," said an industry stakeholder.

Meanwhile, in Zimbabwe mystery surrounds the whereabouts of almost two million carats of diamonds worth $80 million mined by Canadile Miners in Chiadzwa during the joint venture between Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) and Core Mining and Mineral Resources.

The 1 700 000 million carats diamonds were allegedly moved from Canadile Miners’ sorting house in Mutare to an unknown destination last week.

The stunning revelations were made by Lovemore Kurotwi, the embattled director of Core Mining and Mineral Resources, in his second supplementary affidavit filed before High Court judge Justice Susan Mavangira on Monday.

“I wish to place the information before this honourable court by way of this second supplementary affidavit.

“On Friday November 19, whilst this matter was pending before this court, the ZMDC and Marange resources employees including one Govati Mhora removed, to an unknown destination, around 1 700 000 carats of diamonds from Canadile Miners vaults at its Mutare sorting house,” Kurotwi said.

Kurotwi said some of the diamonds had not been sorted, raising fears there could be no reliable record of the value of the diamonds.

“There is a real danger that ZMDC and Marange Resources as they operate other diamond mines in Chiadzwa, may swap Canadile Miners valuable diamonds with others of less value.” he said.

Kurotwi made an urgent chamber application seeking to have Canadile Miners control its assets and mining operations in Chiadzwa.

He is also seeking to have the court to declare valid and subsisting the shareholding agreement between Marange Resources and Core Mining, but ZMDC chairperson Godwills Masimirembwa denied the existence of such an agreement. 

Justice Mavangira is on Monday expected to hear the submissions from Kurotwi’s team of lawyers led by advocate Lewis Uriri.

The defendants, according to the court papers, are ZMDC, Marange Resources, the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe, Canadile Miners and Mines and Mining Development minister Obert Mpofu.  – Stabroek news for Additional reporting