Diamond sector grandee quits over 'sham' set-upMarch 2010
A key industry figure has resigned from the World Diamond Council (WDC) over concerns that organizations set up to prevent the sale of conflict diamonds are making the problem worse rather than better.
Martin Rapaport, chairman of the Rapaport diamond trading network, who was a leading light in the creation of the WDC and is one of the most influential figures in the diamond sector, warned the industry in his resignation statement not to trust the WDC system of warranties or certificates issued by the Kimberley Process. He urged the trade to seek other ways ahead.
The US-based WDC, whose members include Cartier, Tiffany, and De Beers, was set up in 2000, and is the diamond industry's principal global self-regulatory body, while the Israel-based Kimberley Process, created in 2003, is a joint government, industry and civil society initiative to stem the flow of conflict diamonds.
Rapaport said: 'The WDC is aiding and abetting human rights violations through the dissemination of misinformation and by withholding information ... WDC legitimisation enables, empowers and provides financial support to individuals, companies and governments that perpetuate severe human rights abuses in the diamond sector.'
He said the Kimberley Process, which was recently criticised for withdrawing its threatened suspension of Zimbabwe over conflict diamonds, was 'a blood diamond laundering system'. He declared: 'The KP is not just a sham. It's a scam.'
Rapaport, which has offices in Las Vegas, New York, Antwerp, Tel Aviv, Dubai, Mumbai, Hong Kong and Shanghai, runs RapNet, the world's largest diamond-trading network, with daily online diamond listings worth more than $4billion (£2.6bn, €2.9bn).
Marc Choyt, founder of fairjewelry.org, a not-for-profit body that campaigns on conflict diamonds, said Rapaport had been especially upset by the lack of recent action over human rights abuses in Zimbabwean diamond fields.
'Rapaport and his group have been leading up to this full-blown denunciation for weeks, and he has been highly critical of other members of the jewellery trade who have not taken appropriate action to stem the flow of blood diamonds,' he said.
Choyt added that while he applauded Rapaport's stance, the company's chairman was widely seen as being 'a controversial figure' in the industry as well as a maverick. 'Many people disagree strongly with Rapaport's stance and some view his latest concerns as merely grandstanding,' he said.
Neither the WDC nor the Kimberley Process have made any public comment on Rapaport's resignation or views, but the Kimberley Process recently moved to defend its position on Zimbabwe.
'We have developed, jointly with the government of Zimbabwe, a mechanism to ensure full compliance with our requirements, including in Marange, the one region in Zimbabwe where there were substantial indications of non- compliance', it said.
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