Shooting at residents, murderous beatings with digging spades, whipping, and being thrown into the mud. Tough testimonies from Angola describe the treatment of the area's poor by security personnel at the mine in which Leviev is a partner. Associates deny this: "those were not our people." Leviev's spokesperson: "The group created a revolution in the diamond industry in Africa in general and in Angola in particular. We have widespread social and philanthropic programs there."
Globes (Israel’s Business Arena)
(Article translated from Hebrew for Adalah-NY by Rann Bar-on)
Itai Rom - Dec 4 2008
Deloy Mpemba lives in Luremo, in Northern Angola. Nearby is mine operated by a company named Luminas - a partnership between Leviev, the Angola National Diamond Industry and a local retired general - a large mine. Leviev, according to his associates, owns 40%. Locals, who search for diamonds to avoid starvation are designated 'pirate miners'. They are easy prey for Luminas' security company.
On May 17, Mpemba was coming back home with some friends at the end of a day of searching. At a certain stage the group encountered a armed group of security guards hired by K&P Mineira, a private company hired to secure the mine.
"They beat me until my buttocks were swollen and I passed out," testified Mpemba, who required crutches after the incident. "When I came back to consciousness it was dark and I couldn't walk. I stayed in the place I fell until the next day. I crawled back to the neighborhood."
This testimony was published in a report a short while after the incident, in mid-2006 by Rafael Marques, an Angolan human-rights activist, who was been given many international prizes. Next to it in the report, titled 'Diamonds of Humiliation and Misery', are dozens of additional testimonies about abuse and human-right violations committed by the security personnel hired by the mine (as well as by companies serving other corporations).
The testimonies display a dark picture, far as can be from the gala dinners of the diamond mine owners: arbitrary shootings, beatings with rifle butts and digging tools, whippings with belts, violence to children, humiliation ceremonies that include forcing miners to strip, and sometimes to sing and dance naked - are a common occurrence, and that's only a partial list. The companies' activities have, according to Marques' report, a "deep sadistic streak."
The report raised attention around the world, but in Israel it was not even published. Even those interested find it hard to gather data on the events. Angolan journalists have been jailed after publishing critical reports, and local activists to whom Globes turned completely refused to talk on the whole, since "it isn't secure." Marques, who agreed to be interviewed, said that since the publication of his report "the incidents of arbitrary violence have decreased in number, but the problems with the illegal miners continue. I have information about new cases of people who have been killed and of people abused."
"It's very dirty business in Angola," he added this week. "There is no such thing as being clean in the diamond business there, and there is nothing ethical in it. Only those able to swim in mud succeed in this industry"
This is How it Looks in Angola
Today the diamond mines in Angola are controlled by foreign corporations- from Russia, Brazil, South Africa and also from Israel - with the help of the security companies whose tactics have been described above. "A milestone in negligence and lawlessness," Marques says in his report. He adds that the diamonds, that could be a blessing for the area, have turned, from the residents' point of view, into a "curse that is destroying their lives."
The corporations' activities are in partnership with the government, and billions of dollars flow into the latter's purse. Surprisingly, though, the area - that is so rich in resources - remains poor even by Angolan standards. More than a tenth of the children die before the age of five due to lack of health services; most of the villages have no schools; running water is rare resource.
The great poverty is also reflected in some of the cases of abuse documented by Marques. For example, in the story of Antonio Eliseu,14. The teenager looked for diamonds in the river with a friend, until K&P's security men arrived. "The ordered us to come out of the water, and one of them slapped by face," testified Eliseu. When his words failed to find favor with the security personnel they continued to beat him, and when his friend tried to intervene, he was shot and began to bleed into the river. "The security man," said Eliseu, "asked me how come a child is already mining diamonds. I told him I have no way of paying for my education since my father does not work and there is no work in town."
Even when the miners find diamonds that will be worth a fortune in the West, it is doubtful whether they get adequate compensation for them, and this is where Leviev enters the picture. Since 1999 the Israeli tycoon has been in partnership with the Angolan government in a company called Ascorp (Angola Selling Corporation): until 2003 the company held the exclusive rights to purchase unprocessed diamonds from pirate miners, and since then it operates alongside a second company. According to past publications, Leviev holds 49% of the company. His people deny this, saying that his ownership stake is smaller, but refuse to say what it actually is.
Where do the Diamonds Come From? Good Question
The lack of documentation referred to by Marques is just one part of the long list of problems in the management of the buying houses - problems that contradict the Kimberley Treaty that the diamond bosses, Leviev among them, love to gloat about. "Leviev was Angola's chief consultant during the Kimberly process," say his associates, "and Angola is among the leaders in implementing the process."
Really? While the central part of the process is the implementation of means of control and monitoring that will verify where each and every diamond comes from and who profits from its sale, the purchasing houses in which Ascorp buys it diamonds do not ask the seller for details, do not inquire as to the origin on the diamonds, and do not document the transactions. The payment, by the way, takes place in 'black' - without receipts or documentation.
And who in Angola grants the certification that these are not blood diamonds? Sodiam, the governmental corporation that is Leviev's partner in Ascorp, that of course has an interest in certifying as many diamonds as possible for sale.
Some of these unprocessed diamonds have reached Israel in the past few years. When Leviev received the license for world-wide distribution of Angolan diamonds, the response in the markets in Ramat Gan has highly satisfied, since now unprocessed diamonds could come directly to Israel and skip all the middlemen. In July 2004, 'Sodiam International' was incorporated - another partnership between Leviev and the Angolan government. The new company sells Angola's diamonds on the world market.
The company, whose founding ceremony was attended by the minister of finance Benjamin Netanyahu, was registered in Israel. Its offices are on Betzal'el Street in the Ramat Gan diamond market. The company states that none of its diamonds are blood diamonds, and when the Ministry of Trade sees the Angolan stamp, it adds its own as well.
But do the representatives of the Ministry of Trade really know whose pockets were lined with money due to those diamonds? Not really. The PAC [Partnership Africa Canada] report from about a year ago states: "The origin of the stones, and the deals and businessmen through whom they passed before arriving at the purchasing houses - remain a mystery [...] The system is clearly sufficiently loose to allow a huge quantity of blood diamonds to get through, if disputes were occurring in nearby areas [...] If a new conflict breaks out, the Angolan system will be wide open for exploitation [...] There is nothing in the system that will prevent widespread laundering of unprocessed diamonds from war-torn areas of Angola or elsewhere, in case a new war breaks out." In a report published a month ago the organization states that nothing has changed.
The warnings are not theoretical: in adjacent Congo a brutal civil war has been raging for years and has cost the lives of millions. In January, a peace agreement was signed between the rebels and the government and a ceasefire was declared. However, the battles have recently resumed, including massacres and brutal rapes. "If the situation in Congo worsens and it becomes impossible to export diamonds from the country," says Blor, "they will easily get to Angola and from there outwards. The diamond companies are talking about how much they have done so that the Kimberly process would work, and the governments always say how proud they are of the process. But when the civil organizations point out that they really have no idea where the diamonds come from, and that the system is broken, they just ignore their words completely."
"The Kimberly process in Angola is a farce," adds Marques, "it does not assist in defining which are truly clean diamonds and which are dirty. The only people who really profit from the Kimberly process are Leviev and Morris Templesman [another diamond man who purchases unprocessed diamonds] who use it for their own purposes and who get a cover for exploiting workers from the Kimberly process."
Associated of Leviev agree that they in fact have no idea where the diamonds that Ascorp purchases from the unlicensed miners come from. "We don't have much to say regarding this claim," they say, "not everything is rosy."
- They could be diamonds that originate in the Congo, for example.
"It is true that it is possible that diamonds are passed on from Congo. What happens in the field today is that smuggling takes place the other way. Anyway, the buyer knows what is a diamond from Congo and what is a diamond from Angola."
- And you can promise that the buyer will not buy a diamond if it appears that it came from Congo?
"Not everything is rosy."
Associates of Leviev Respond: "We Created a Revolution in Angola"
On the cases of abuse: Initially, associates of the private Leviev group (that is not associated with Africa-Israel) claimed that the report did not include any cases attributed to their security company and said that "we respect the report. We do not take it lightly. Send us the report and we will check." A few days after Globes sent the report the same associated stated that "The incidents were investigated and were found to never have occurred. The incidents were not committed by the security company. If they did happen, perhaps they were carried out by Angolan security forces."
On the claims that transactions take place without documentation and in cash:"The state runs the business. We do not know who the purchasers are and do not pay those responsible. The state produces the certificates that enable trade in diamonds. The group does not intervene in day-to-day management. From checks that we ran, we see that only those certified carry out transactions, according to the regulations."
The group's spokesman wished to add that the group "created a revolution in the African diamond industry in general and specifically in Angola. While in the past the industry only exported the diamonds, the group now cooperates with governments by raising entire industries dedicated to the processing of diamonds, including training local workers and the creation of thousands of jobs. This socioeconomic revolution is of great added value."
The associated also said that the group carries out extensive social and philanthropic activities, however they did not respond to Globe's request to give exact specification of these activities: "getting into accounting for a million here or a million there is not the point," they said.