Up to half of the diamonds mined in Sierra Leone’s informal diamond trade are unregistered, and many of these are smuggled, depriving the government of tax revenue. A diamond smuggler, who requested anonymity, told IRIN about the practice.
“People steal the diamonds when [sifting for them]. It’s easy to do. The supervisor can’t watch everything.
“It is very easy to smuggle a diamond. You can put it in your [shirt] hem or on your body. They [the police] try to catch smugglers but they can’t. Many border crossings are unmanned. I just take my motorbike.
“Everyone smuggles – all the foreign dealers here, all the Sierra Leonean dealers. They pay people like me to smuggle for them.
“I take the diamonds through the forest to Guinea and Liberia. An investor will come to buy them; there are lots of tourist investors. They buy big stocks – five, eight, 10 carats. They don’t pay any tax. Nor do we.
“Investors want diamonds without papers. When you have no papers you get a higher price for the diamonds.
“There are government monitoring officers who go to the villages looking for smugglers. If they catch you they take you to the police station and if you are guilty you pay a fine. But you can negotiate it with the police. Everything is negotiable. It’s worth it to steal.
“Stealing is easy in the small pits but if you’re in [working for] a big company you’ll lose your job if you steal.
“I learned how to evaluate diamonds on the job – I never studied it.
“A problem for the government is they are not getting the taxes; it is a problem for Sierra Leone. But is difficult to change and this is the best way to make a living in diamonds.
“Everybody buys. Most journalists buy stones. Why aren’t you buying?”
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions
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