By Alex Bell
22 February 2013
A new report released this week has detailed how Zimbabwe’s diamonds are disappearing, with participation and support from various countries across the world, including South Africa and Angola.
The report, by a group that uses journalism and whistle blowing to expose corruption around the world, has detailed who is involved in the transport of Zimbabwe’s diamonds, using a mysterious airplane that has previously been reported on. The group, 100Reporters, said that once a month, sometimes more, “a VIP-configured Airbus jetted into Lanseria International Airport, a small and privately-owned base facility near Johannesburg, South Africa.”
“The plane, an Airbus 319CJ, also stopped at Zimbabwe’s Harare airport. It carried important people and was widely believed to ferry some precious—and illicit–cargo: Zimbabwe’s conflict diamonds,” the report states.
The plane, first identified in a report by the British non-profit organisation Global Witness, “has played an integral role in moving the diamonds out of Zimbabwe.” The 100Reporters article goes on to “reveal links between the mysterious jet, Zimbabwe government officials, law firms and investors with holdings across the globe, from the UK to China, Angola to Bermuda to Wall Street.”
“Flight logs for the plane… disclose frequent trips to Singapore, Hong Kong, Tanzania and Angola, among others. The Airbus appears to enjoy a remarkable lack of scrutiny, seemingly flying in a perpetual no-oversight zone. In the South African airport that was the plane’s home base, unless cargo and goods were self-declared, the plane and its passengers were not normally subject to inspection by customs, police or civil aviation authorities,” the article states.
It goes on to name the most frequent passenger on the Airbus, as Xu Jinghua, a Chinese businessman also known as Sam Pa. They said he visited Zimbabwe once a month and was believed to carry out diamonds, according to watchdog groups. Pa has been accused of providing arms and a fleet of Nissan pickup trucks to Zimbabwe’s feared secret police, according to Global Witness and other non-profit organizations that monitor extractive industries.
SW Radio Africa will be unpacking the report in more detail from next week.
There are renewed calls for targeted sanctions to be placed against individuals like Sam Pa to prevent financing more bloodshed in Zimbabwe.
The EU this week partially lifted its targeted measures against Zimbabwe, despite calls for them to strengthen the measures to prevent election violence.
Emily Armistead, a campaigner with Global Witness, said on Friday that ‘sanctions gaps’ could allow the Zimbabwean military to keep receiving ‘off budget funding’ from people like Sam Pa.
“We’d agree that Sam Pa needs to be on the list (of targeted sanctions). He’s given direct funding to the CIO among other issues,” Armistead told SW Radio Africa.
She added: “European diamond companies must carry out checks on their supply chains to make sure their purchases are not fuelling risks of human rights violations in Zimbabwe.”