Diamond trading syndicate exposed

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Taurai Mangudhla/Tinashe Makichi

Two executives at the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) were this week arrested on allegations of abuse of office and corruption as Zimbabwe’s ‘diamond curse’ continues despite efforts made towards improving the operating model within the sector.

Police this week swooped on ZCDC chief executive Moris Mpofu and finance director Charles Gambe.

Mpofu who is facing abuse of office allegations after having allowed Lebanese illegal diamond dealer Hussein Robai to deal with ZCDC was granted ZWL$2000 bail yesterday and as part of the bail conditions is supposed to report twice a week to Marlborough Police Station after surrendering his passport.

Finance director for the diamond miner Charles Gambe is also accused of abusing office by purchasing 1200 bags of cement for his personal use using a ZCDC account has also since been granted bail.

Information at hand suggest the net could  be cast wider to top officials within government amid indications there could be reasonable grounds for charges of undervaluation of diamonds and collusion with buyers.

As previously reported by Business Times, top executives at ZCDC and MMCZ stand accused of engaging in illegal diamond deals and colluding on the price of diamonds. Prominent names being thrown around even in the court papers include that of deported Lebanese tycoon Hussein Robai.

The deportation of Robai came after there were concerted efforts by some officials at Foreign Affairs Ministry and ZCDC to protect the Lebanese who was only deported eventually through intervention of state security services.

The Department of Immigration deported Robai over his previous illegal diamond dealing convictions in India allegations and having been behind a spate of
illegal diamonds smuggling in the country.

According to court papers, Mpofu  is being accused of abuse of office by inviting the
Lebanese tycoon Robai despite his criminal record.

In September 2008, Robai and Yusuf Ossely were arrested in India with rough diamonds worth an estimated US$900 000. They were later sentenced to four years in prison for trading in conflict diamonds.

Information gathered points to the fact that there has been massive friction between senior MMCZ (marketing department)  and ZCDC officials where the latter has allegedly been meddling into the affairs of the former in terms of the diamond sales.

Senior officials at ZCDC have been accused of allegedly directing orders to MMCZ and also determining the buyers which the state minerals marketer was supposed to engage which is not supposed to be the norm, according to officials at MMCZ.

It is also understood that over 60 houses in the leafy suburbs of Mutare are alleged to have been converted into illegal diamond trading centres by a syndicate of foreigners who have been getting the precious stone from illegal artisanal miners.

The diamond trading syndicates are said to have devised sophisticated methods and strategies to evade law enforcement agencies. The converted houses are alleged to be located in the leafy suburbs of the City mainly in Greenside, Morningside, Palmerstone and Murambi.

Gambe who is accused of abusing office by purchasing 1200 bags of cement for his personal use using ZCDC Large account has also since been granted bail.