By Charles Rukuni, JOHANNESBURG, October 23 (The Source) – South African diamond executive Ernest Blom allegedly traded in Marange diamonds long before he decided to team up with United States sanctions buster C Gregory Turner and even boasted about his involvement, the former chief executive of African Consolidated Resources, Andrew Cranswick told United States embassy officials in November 2008.
It appears that one of the reasons why Turner wanted Blom in the deal was that Blom could “clean up” Zimbabwe’s diamonds if the Kimberley Process stopped the trade in Marange diamonds.
ACR held the mining rights to the Marange diamonds until September 2010 when Justice Charles Hungwe ruled that it had obtained the rights fraudulently, but it had already been kicked out of Chiadzwa by the government in 2006.
Cranswick told US embassy officials on 6 November 2008 that 85 percent of the diamonds from Marange were being sold to foreign buyers and high quality diamonds were being shipped to Belgium, Israel and South Africa for cutting.
Though he later denied talking to embassy officials when his revelations naming top government officials who were allegedly involved in the diamond trade were exposed through Wikileaks, Cranswick said Ernie Blom was involved in the illicit trade of Marange diamonds and “had been known to boast of his involvement in illegal Zimbabwean diamonds”.
Cranswick named top government officials allegedly involved in the illegal trade of Marange diamonds as: Central Bank governor Gideon Gono, First Lady Grace Mugabe, Vice President Joice Mujuru, Defence Forces Chief Constantine Chiwenga, Central Intelligence Organisation Director Happyton Bonyongwe and Manicaland governor Chris Mushowe.
He also said “several white Zimbabweans, including Ken Sharpe, Greg Scott, and Hendrik O’Neill” were allegedly involved.
Turner implied that Blom could clean up Zimbabwe’s diamonds in an email to Gono’s assistant on 2 March 2009 in which he was trying to arrange a meeting between Gono and Blom to facilitate the setting up of a diamond mining company.
He told Gono’s assistant that there was a world shortage of diamonds and “if they close Zim out of the Kimberly Process the trade with be Blackmarket only. Individual C can help clean up the trade to benefit Government and the people.”
The Insider has since established that Individual C is Blom, though he declined to confirm this claiming that the matter was subjudice. Blom was part of the Kimberley Process review inspection team that visited Zimbabwe in 2007 and represented the diamond industry.
Throughout his correspondence with Gono and then Mines Minister Obert Mpofu, Blom dropped in subtle hints that he was going to be Zimbabwe’s saviour. The country could not do without him so they had to give him a licence to “mine, cut, market and sell” the diamonds from Marange.
In an email to Turner on 6 February, for example, Blom attached an article detailing the government’s killing of miners so that it could take over the diamond mines and the illegal smuggling of Zimbabwe’s diamonds.
On 1 April, Blom forwarded Turner another article detailing the government of Zimbabwe’s human rights abuses and its inability to mine its diamond fields.
On 8 April, a day before he met Mines Minister Obert Mpofu, Blom emailed Turner stating: “further to our discussion today…regarding various Zimbabwean initiatives, please be advised that I see this as a joint venture between you and I. I am optimistic that the various meetings we will be having with the relevant entities in Zimbabwe will be fruitful and will result in a positive outcome for ourselves and Zimbabwe.”
Soon after submitting his proposal for setting up the joint venture between the government, himself and Turner, Blom emailed Turner another article on Zimbabwe’s abuses and its inability to mine its diamonds. This also included an article that said Mugabe’s closest allies were profiting from blood diamonds.
On 11 May, Blom emailed Turner an article about an international diamond group calling for a ban of diamond trading in Zimbabwe because the proceeds had been used to fund human rights abuses.
Blom and Turner failed to set up their diamond mining company after they fell out with Liparm Corporation boss Robert Mhlanga who went on to start Mbada Diamonds.
This article, the fourth of a five-part series on the Turner-Blom diamond deal and how it flopped, is reproduced with permission from The Insider www.insiderzim.com