Diamond Theft Exposes Tensions in Zimbabwe’s Gem Trade
15 May 2024
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By A Correspondent| Zimbabwean authorities are investigating the alleged theft of diamonds by Anjin Investments and Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe (MMCZ) officials at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport (RGM). This incident has shed light on a deeper conflict within the country’s diamond trade.

A government official, speaking anonymously, claims the theft is part of a smear campaign by a diamond cartel upset over losing control of the trade. This cartel, allegedly led by diamond dealer Jamal Ahmed (who was blacklisted in 2022), previously dominated the opaque diamond selling process in Zimbabwe.

The government source argues that a recent partnership between Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamonds Company (ZCDC) and Dubai-based firm Erleen Gold Trading aims to increase transparency. Diamonds are now sold through public tenders in Dubai, eliminating the backroom deals previously suspected.

The source emphasizes that Erleen Gold is merely an agent, channeling all diamond sale proceeds back to ZCDC. Prices are determined by the market through international tenders, not by Erleen Gold. This newfound transparency is believed to be behind the alleged smear campaign.

While this is the first diamond purchase from Anjin by Erleen Gold, the source claims Anjin will ultimately receive a 20% price increase compared to the last tender. The source also highlights a growing problem of diamond smuggling, which the new system aims to combat.

Sources allege a network of disgruntled middlemen and corrupt MMCZ/ZCDC officials are trying to sabotage the ZCDC-Erleen Gold venture. This cartel reportedly thrives under the old, non-transparent system.

For the first time, Zimbabwean diamonds are openly advertised internationally. Erleen Gold tailors stones for specific markets, maximizing profits shared with ZCDC. They essentially act as ZCDC’s partner in finance, technical expertise, marketing, and international sales.

Efforts to reach Erleen Gold, ZCDC, and MMCZ for comment were unsuccessful. The shadow of the past looms large, as a 2021 audit revealed unaccounted-for diamonds worth US$140 million in MMCZ and ZCDC repositories.