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Zimbabwe: Security sector identified as key player in the plundering of diamonds by Asian cartels; report

‘Chiadzwa Diamond: How The Chain Of Plunder Keeps Lengthening’ 17 July 2021

ZIMBABWEAN security operatives have been co-opted into daylight plunder of diamonds in Chiadzwa by Asian cartels lavishing cash and expensive gifts for protection, an investigation by NewZimbabwe.com has revealed. The pillage is fuelling Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs), the smuggling of money and assets which are illegal in source, transfer or use. A 2020 UNCTAD’s Economic Development in Africa Report says annually, an estimated $88.6 billion, equivalent to 3.7% of Africa’s GDP, leaves the continent through IFFs. Similarly, a 2020 African Development Bank report estimated that Zimbabwe has lost a cumulative $12 billion in the last three decades through IFFs.

…Chiadzwa, just under 60km southwest of Mutare, is a wicked ecosystem of panners, armed para-military police, detectives, soldiers, military intelligence, runners of merchants identified by local dealers as people from countries such as Pakistan, Lebanon, China, and India, among others. Mutare dealer *Edward Mukoyi, says he once bribed a group of soldiers with a 750ml bottle of whisky worth just US$15 at a checkpoint. He was driving a group of panners in his car. According to a police report, in Marange, 15 ZNA soldiers armed with AK 47 rifles and accompanied by some 30 illegal diamond miners besieged Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) portal B at Mbada Hills midnight on 15 January 2019 and looted some stockpiled diamond ore.

…Runners interviewed in Mutare said they also use the cash to both bribe security and receive tips on impending police raids. Farai Maguwu, director with Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG), an NGO working on promoting accountability and transparency in Chiadzwa diamonds, says police know the dealers and frequently raid “not to arrest the criminals but to extort money from them”. A police source said on an ordinary day, a runner is dispatched with US$100 000 to buy diamonds with prices ranging from US$50 to US$80 per carat. To lessen the risk of arrest, cartels use some police detectives from the Minerals, Flora and Fauna department as couriers of the loot. An officer with the unit who refused to be identified insisted on this publication getting comment from authorised police spokespersons.