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18 Sep 2016

Khadija Sharife, on behalf of; OSISA, SARW, ANCIR (South Africa)

NGOs report critical of De Beers, govt. and ruling party relationship; allege malpractices may be costing the county millions in tax avoidance

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De Beers and the [ruling party] BDP [Botswana Democratic Party] have knit the political and corporate structures together in such a way that they undermine accountability and regulatory systems with a culture of secrecy (framed by De Beers as “confidentiality”). As a private entity, De Beers’ dealings are largely protected from scrutiny. Unlike the EU and U.S., where governments once banned or prosecuted De Beers for price-fixing and other anti-competitive activities, Botswana’s government and its ruling party have been direct collaborators...The corporate structure of the Debswana system operates through secrecy jurisdictions...which allow shareholdings and associated companies to withhold details about the real beneficiaries of companies. Another part of the business structure that allows De Beers to manipulate the diamond trade out of the public eye is the use of sightholders, the bulk diamond buyers approved by De Beers. The contracts with sightholders are secret, but...De Beers has to know that the sightholder will keep the whole process hidden...By partnering with De Beers, Botswana is party to the secretive, monopolistic business practices that underpin the diamond industry...There are ways, however, to make Botswana’s economy more transparent. To start, there should be disclosure of mining contracts in order for citizens to access and influence the terms and conditions...