Lebanon is importing rough diamonds, raising serious concern that the proceeds could be used to fund African conflicts, according to international investigative NGO, Global Witness.
Lebanese customs data published online showed that industrial rough diamonds worth US $156 million were imported during the year.
"These significant imports of diamonds into Lebanon, are of great concern to Global Witness, as they counter the efforts of the international community to stop the trade in conflict diamonds," said Corinna Gilfillan, lead campaigner at the US branch of the organisation.
The NGO believes the diamonds originated from the Republic of Congo (RoC). "The country has long been a conduit for smuggled gems from diamond-producing neighbours, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Angola," Gilfillan commented.
"Conflict diamonds have fuelled and financed several wars in Africa, which have caused the deaths and displacement of millions of people," she explained.
A Lebanese official told Global Witness that an investigation was underway, but no one was available for comment when approached by IRIN.
"Lebanon should make public the results of the investigation into these imports," Global Witness maintained. "If the imports exist, Lebanon should show its commitment to eliminating the trade in conflict diamonds by seizing these imports, declaring its current stock of rough diamonds, and releasing a list of companies trading in rough diamonds."
In 2003 the international community created the Kimberley Process to ensure that conflict diamonds did not enter legitimate trade.
Rough diamonds traded in countries that are not signatories to the Kimberley Process are at high risk of being considered conflict diamonds.
The RoC was suspended from the Kimberley Process in July 2004 for exporting large quantities of rough diamonds, despite having little known production. Lebanon is not a member of the process.
A total of 42 countries and the EC participate in the process and members are required to trade in rough diamonds only with other participants.