Zimbabwe’s government is using money earned from diamond exports to fund its Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), blamed for a raft of human-rights abuses as it’s helped to keep President Robert Mugabe in power since 1980, Global Witness said.
Diamonds dug from the Marange fields in eastern Zimbabwe are channeled through Dubai, India, the Netherlands and South Africa by a complicated web of cross-owned companies based in places as diverse as Mauritius, Hong Kong and Johannesburg, the London-based group said in a report released on Monday.
The companies have one thing in common: partnerships with businesses owned by the Zimbabwe government or its military. The earnings, says Global Witness, are funneled back to the CIO and army “off budget.” Zimbabwe’s army and the CIO declined to comment. Calls to the mines ministry weren’t answered.
In 2011, the then Finance Minister Tendai Biti said government had lost as much as $15 billion in revenue as a result of diamond looting and accused the elite in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African Union-Patriotic Front party of “prospering from the stones.”
At the time, Biti, then a member of the Movement for Democratic Change, was part of a power-sharing agreement. Two years later, Mugabe himself lamented the loss of $13 billion to diamond theft. The country’s gross domestic product is about $16 billion, according to the World Bank.
“The future of Zimbabwe’s diamonds now hangs in the balance. Dwindling reserves are demanding greater investment from an industry shaped by state-sponsored looting and short-term thinking,” Global Witness said in the report, the first attempt to link a web of companies and individuals who’ve prospered from the Marange fields.
It blames the government, which owns at least 50% of the diamond mining companies in Marange and selected each of its partners. “With billions missing, any heist – it is clear – started closer to home,” it says.
With debt of over $10 billion and deteriorating infrastructure, diamond wealth could have lifted Zimbabwe from the mire of unemployment, unpaid civil service wages and factory closures, the report said.