In Europe, the heart of the diamond industry is in Antwerp, Belgium. In three downtown streets, among the most guarded in the country. ” In this district alone, 1600 companies are registered “, says Hans Merket. This researcher from the NGO IPIS – which documents diamond trafficking – is one of the finest connoisseurs of the European market. “In Antwerphe says, 25% of diamonds come from Russia“. According to him, the war in Ukraine has not changed the volume of transactions. According to the latest official figures published by the Belgian national bank, diamond exchanges with Russia even reached a record level, four months after the start of the war. “This year, in June, Russian diamond imports reached 393 million euros. Last year, for the same period, it was only 175 million euros. This is an exceptional number “, emphasizes the researcher.
Imports which do not weaken and which have benefited a large Russian company called Alrosa. Based in Myrni, in eastern Siberia, the firm, which specializes in the extraction of diamonds in huge open-pit mines, is 33% owned by the Russian state. The company’s boss, Sergei Ivanov, is even regularly received by Vladimir Putin, as here in 2020. When contacted, Alrosa officials in Russia refused to answer our questions. According to our information, teams from the Russian company are still working from Antwerp, but it is impossible to know how many employees are present, nor the reality of their work. While many sectors of the Russian economy are targeted by European sanctions, how to explain that, despite its links with the Kremlin, Alrosa is spared? In the Brussels parliament, more and more deputies openly ask the question. “Russian diamonds are blood diamonds“, denounces Kathleen Van Brempt, MEP belonging to the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats group in the European Parliament.Until now, with each wave of sanctions, we have put the diamonds under the rug. I regret it because in the United States, for example, they sanctioned Alrosa from the start of the war”adds the MEP.
According to several elected officials, if no European sanction has yet been taken, it is because the influential lobby of diamond merchants has managed to make its voice heard even in the corridors of the European Parliament. The argument is well-rehearsed:It would take less than 48 hours for the Russians to put their diamonds on planes and sell them in India. So the impact for Russia would be nil and for Antwerp it would be catastrophic“, specifies Tom Neys, spokesperson for AWDC, the association of diamond dealers in Antwerp. To hear him say, thousands of jobs are at stake. of European sanctions does not seem to scare everyone.” Embargoes don’t work”, slips anonymously one of the diamond merchants we meet. Another of his colleagues tells us that some diamond dealers have even found a solution to the implementation of possible sanctions: ” Now the Russian diamonds enter through Dubai. There they get some kind of virginity certificate “. By passing through third countries, Russian companies could complicate the traceability of precious stones and thus limit the effectiveness of possible European sanctions.
Among our sources (non-exhaustive list):
Hans Merket, researcher at IPIS (Antwerp)
Tom Neys, AWDC spokesperson (Antwerp)
Kathleen Van Brempt, MEP of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats group in the European Parliament.
Belgian delegation to the European Union.
Source: France TV Info