“Peace Diamond” sells for $6.5M; Sierra Leone promises development from sale

World Today

"Peace Diamond" sells for $6.5M; Sierra Leone promises development from sale

One of the world’s largest diamonds was just sold at auction in New York. Dubbed the “Peace Diamond”, the stone was mined in Sierra Leone by an artisanal miner who brought it to the government. Now, the government is promising to use the proceeds to develop the country, one of the poorest in the world.

CGTN’s Karina Huber reports.

The world’s fourteenth largest diamond at 706-carats just sold at auction in New York for $6.5 million. The so-called “peace diamond,” comes from a country better known for its blood diamonds.

It was largely diamonds, smuggled out of the country and sold to buy weapons, that fueled Sierra Leone’s 11-year civil war, responsible for an estimated 50,000 deaths.

“I was in Sierra Leone during the war. I was in the amputee camps. I saw what happens when diamonds are not dealt with in a correct manner and it broke my heart,” Martin Rapaport, chairman of the Rapaport Group said.

Rapaport handled the sale of the Peace Diamond commission free. It was bought by Laurence Graff, one of the world’s leading jewelers, based in London.

The stone was found by a group of artisanal miners lead by Pastor Emmanuel Momoh. He said someone offered to sell it for him on the black market but he decided to bring it to the government instead.

“As a Pastor, I don’t believe in smuggling. I believe in sincerity. I believe in transparency. What belongs to the nation as a tax for the development of the nation. Let me give to them,” said Momoh.

Momoh and his miners will be getting 26 percent of the proceeds as a finder’s fee. That’s more than a million-and-a-half dollars. Another 15 percent will go directly to his community. The rest – 59 percent — will go to the government that promises to use it on bringing clean water, electricity and more to the rest of the country.

“It’s all about taxes. If diamonds are sold legitimately, through legitimate channels, taxes are paid, they become development diamonds,” said Rapaport. “If diamonds are smuggled, they go into the black-market world, they go into the world of money-laundering. They go into the world of terrorist funding.”

The country still has a diamond smuggling problem but the hope is that if diamonds can lead to more services for Sierra Leone’s poorest, more artisanal miners will be encouraged to sell them legitimately.

Momoh and Rapaport say the ball is now in the court of the Sierra Leone government. They say the high-profile nature of the Peace Diamond ensures the world will be watching to make sure the money is spent as promised.