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14 Jan 2020

Insight Crime

Guatemala: Investigation Reveals Rise in Illegal Jade Trafficking that eludes Mining and Environmental Controls

[Excerpt translation from Spanish to English provided by Business & Human Rights Resource Centre]

 "Jade, the new crown jewel for crime in Guatemala", December 16, 2019

...A coastal region east of Guatemala, known as a cocaine corridor, has become notorious for becoming an illegal route for trafficking jade, a high-value gemstone that is booming in China. The illegal extraction and transportation operations were allegedly facilitated by high-level authorities and politicians, according to investigations by the Public Prosecutor's Office.

On Oct. 1, Guatemalan police seized a container with 10 tons of unprocessed jade that had been extracted near Morales, one of the most important cities in Izabal, a coastal department in the east of the country.  Police arrested four crew members of the truck carrying the ore, according to Prensa Libre.

Prosecutors' suspicions point to a network of political influences that would be facilitating the entire operation, as the traffickers needed to circumvent mining and environmental controls before the jade left the port of Santo Tomás de Castilla, on the Caribbean coast of Izabal.

In recent years, China has driven demand for this gem, traditionally considered a symbol of wealth and good fortune...