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20 october 2014

margaux_donckier_fullsizel_exp.jpgAbout 500 000 carats of Zimbabwean diamonds worth about $45 million that were on sale last month at the Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC) were first attached by Amari Platinum before the Belgian court reversed the seizure, pending a court ruling, which is expected anytime soon.

A group of white former commercial farmers also attached the same diamonds on the basis of an International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes arbitration award against the Zimbabwean government to compensate the ex-farmers.

The Dutch farmers had been battling to get Harare to pay them $54 million awarded in 2009 by the Washington-based body for breach of a bilateral investment treaty following the compulsory acquisition of their properties.

The conflict with Amari stems from 2010 when Harare cancelled the platinum company’s joint venture with the ZMDC because the South Africans had prolonged exploration in Great Dyke beyond the stipulated duration.

When Amari applied for a mining license, Harare claimed the exploration was undertaken unlawfully.

By 2011, ZMDC was to take over and start mining on its own.


Upset by this development, Amari addressed the Paris-based International Court of Appeal with a $500 million suit, which decided that the platinum miner should be compensated.

As the legal battle rages on, the voice of AWDC had been silent and Rough & Polished’s Mathew Nyaungwa sought a comment from the centre’s spokesperson Margaux Donckier, who said they regret the seizure.

However, AWDC was quick to point out that they were not involved in the matter.

Donckier also commented on the recent closure of the Antwerp Diamond Bank.

Below are the excerpts.

Concerning the Zimbabwean tender

What is your comment on the confiscation of the Zimbabwean diamonds that were on auction in Antwerp?

AWDC regrets that the seizures took place but emphasizes that it is not an involved party in the matter. The tender facility located on the AWDC premises is a room that mining companies can rent to present their goods to potential buyers. AWDC is in no way involved in neither the tender proceedings nor the closing of deals.

Since the tender facility became operational, 22 tenders have been held. Between the 3rd of September and the 17th of September, a tender was organized by First Element, a diamond company registered in Botswana. This was the third time First Element organized a tender of Zimbabwean goods.

Why were the goods seized?

The seizure of goods was a result of:

1. Seizure on the 12th of September: a dispute between the Zimbabwean government and two South- African companies.

2. Seizure on the 19th of September: a dispute between the Zimbabwean government and expropriated Zimbabwean farmers.

What is the latest development on this legal battle?

The mining companies have started a rei vindicate procedure (a legal action by which the plaintiff demands that the defendant return a thing that belongs to the plaintiff), contesting the first seizure and claiming ownership of the goods. The Belgian court will decide on this.

Regarding ADB

What is the level of impact on the diamond industry caused by the closure of the Antwerp Diamond Bank (ADB)?

The divestiture of ADB in 2009 was a precondition for (Belgian banking and insurance group) KBC to receive state aid so that it could continue to exist. About one-third of Antwerp diamond dealers are financed by ADB.

What is being done to keep the financing levels of the Antwerp diamond sector at market conform levels?

AWDC together with credible partners including the Belgian government is working on a solution in order to guarantee sustainable financing for the Antwerp diamond trade. To avoid compromising potential solutions, AWDC will not elaborate any further on this matter for the time being.

Mathew Nyaungwa, Editor in Chief of the African Bureau, Rough&Polished