Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Diamond Body Defies Sanctions Against Zimbabwe

Diamond body defies sanctions

By Takunda Maodza
Zimbabwe Herald

Visiting Antwerp World Diamond Centre senior officials have distanced
themselves from the political stand-off between Zimbabwe and Belgium, saying they are only interested in seeing Harare benefit from its gems.

The group has offered technical assistance to the local diamond industry.

Belgium — a leading international diamond trading centre — is part of
the 27-member European Union bloc that has imposed illegal sanctions on Zimbabwe.

The four-member delegation, led by an official from the Belgian
Embassy in South Africa, had a brief meeting with Mines and Mining
Development Minister Obert Mpofu at his offices in Harare yesterday.

The delegation comprised of Antwerp World Diamond Centre chief
executive Mr Freddy Hanard and his deputy Mr Ari Epstein.

Minister Mpofu said: "The EU has been on the forefront of applying
sanctions on us.

"This visit is an attempt by Belgian people to show their support for
Zimbabwe as businesspeople as opposed to politicians," he said.

The minister said people were beginning to see the irrelevance of
sanctions against Zimbabwe.

"These are top guys from the Antwerp and they are going to meet
players in the diamond industry and Government officials," he said.

Mr Hanard said the group was in Zimbabwe on a business mission.

"We are not politicians. We are not here to say what you are doing is
good or bad. We are here to assist," he said.

He was at pains to explain that they were not in violation of the EU
sanctions by working with Zimbabwe.

Mr Hanard is the former CEO of Holland’s ABN Amro Bank, the largest
funder of the diamond industry.

Mr Epstein yesterday said: "We are representatives of Antwerp, the
largest diamond centre in the world. It is normal that we establish

"We have a 500-year-old heritage of dealing in diamonds and it is
important that this knowledge is shared between the people that trade
and those with the product.

"We have experience in all areas."

He said Antwerp deals with 1 800 diamond dealers and has a daily
turnover of US$200 million.

"We have developed in the last 56 years in diamond trading and that
will help in structuring any diamond trading business most efficiently
and in a transparent manner.

"It is important that Zimbabwe gets the best price for its diamonds,"
Mr Hanard said.

Mr Hanard, who repeatedly remarked how much Zimbabwe had impressed him, said another high-powered delegation from Antwerp would visit the country between September and October this year for further investment explorations.

He said Antwerp was not interested in just buying diamonds.

Antwerp is reportedly angling for a Memorandum of Understanding with
either the Government or Canadile Miners and Mbada Holdings, two of
the firms exploiting diamonds in Chiadzwa.

"We are not like any other delegation that has arrived before us. We
are here for the long-term and we want to offer things that others
have not offered before.

"We are not interested in the ‘give me diamonds and I will give you
money’ kind of relations," Mr Epstein said.

Global trade in diamonds is worth more than US$60 billion annually and Antwerp is believed to be the axis around which most of that business turns.

Mr Hanard, on the Antwerp website, describes the centre thus: "Antwerp is considerably more than just a place where diamonds are bought, sold and manufactured.

"It is the critical intersection on the world map that facilitates the
operation of the entire diamond business."

The delegation is on a three-day tour.

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