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Customs help fight 'blood diamonds'

Officials are being taught how to identify rough diamonds and ensure that consignments of gems are properly certified.

DUBAI// Customs officials are being taught how to identify rough diamonds and ensure that consignments of gems are properly certified, as authorities attempt to clamp down on smuggling. Thirty officials and inspection officers from Dubai International Airport, Dubai Cargo Village, Dubai Flower Center and Dubai Airport Multi Commodities Center, attended a workshop on Feb 25, where they were taught how to differentiate between rough diamonds and other precious stones and minerals.

The sessions were led by Maryam al Hashemi, the director of the UAE's Kimberley Process, an initiative introduced by the UN to ensure that rough diamonds originate in places free from conflict. The UAE's Kimberley Process office has worked with government departments to ensure the authenticity of rough diamonds traded through the country since the UAE signed up to the Kimberley Process in 2002, the first Arab state to do so.

"We are keen to exchange expertise with Kimberley and identify the latest methods so as to ensure the authenticity of exported and imported diamond consignments," said Mohammed Abdullah, senior manager of customer service at Airport Zone. Dubai is playing a bigger role in the diamond industry. With the establishment of the Dubai Diamond Exchange and the Dubai Multi Commodities Center the Kimberley Process has decided to open a new office in the city, reflecting its importance as a hub for the diamond trade.

Dubai Customs is also planning on buying scanning equipment to detect hidden diamonds. In October, an African woman was caught trying to smuggle Dh4million (US$1.1m) worth of rough diamonds through Dubai International Airport. Kimberley members are the only states authorised to import and export rough diamonds, and 99 per cent of trade in the stones takes place through the scheme. The one per cent that are not certified may have dubious origins and the term "blood diamonds" was coined for those used by rebel movements to finance wars. The trade in these illicit stones has fuelled long-drawn-out conflicts in countries including Côte d'Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sierra Leone.


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