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18 November 2007

A huge flawless white diamond was sold on November 14 for nearly 18.2 million Swiss francs ($16.21 million) to Guess Jeans founder Georges Marciano, who named it the “Chloe Diamond” after his daughter, Sotheby's auctioneers said.

While the hot Chloe rock is certified as a “clean” diamond, it was purchased from Angola’s state mining company, Endiama, a company involved in blood diamonds. No rock of desire of this stature—84.37 carats—comes out of Africa without organized bloodshed and suffering behind it.

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“For the past 20 years, bloodshed and diamond mining have been two sides of the same coin,” said Rafael Marques, a human rights activist from Angola, “violence being explained either in the name of war or of combating illegal activities.”

Marques gave a lecture titled “Rinsing the Blood from Angola’s Diamonds” at Oxford University Africa Society in January 2007. “Today, I am here to share with you a reality of blood, and contempt for human rights, in the diamond fields [of Angola].”

Angola’s state firm Endiama is tied to the Lazare Kaplan diamond company owned by the  Tempelsman diamond cartel. Maurice Tempelsman’s diamond interests were established in the Congo in the early 1960’s with the help of the CIA.

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Sotheby's luxury conglomerate identified the seller of the “Chloe” diamond as Ron Cohen, chief executive officer of Los Angeles-based company Clean Diamonds Inc. “The stone was from Angola,” Ron Cohen reportedly told Reuters. “It has gone through the Kimberley Process and has all the certificates, it is a clean diamond.”

Most media reports described Ron Cohen “as CEO of Clean Diamonds Inc. of Los Angeles,” but Reuters identified Cohen as an Israeli diamond dealer. The company “Clean Diamonds Inc.” is not found in the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission database. Clean Diamonds Inc. also lists New York and Belgium operations on its web site.

“The Kimberley Process is an organization set up by the diamond industry expressly to police trade in gems,” reported Reuters, “to prevent so-called ‘blood diamonds’ used to finance rebel groups and civil wars from coming on the market.”

However, Reuters is a mainstream international news service that supports the diamond industry by not reporting crimes and structural violence that keeps Africa poor. Reuters de-links the suffering and bloodshed caused by diamond cartels in major diamond producing countries like Angola, Sierre Leone, Congo, Namibia, Botswana, Liberia, Central Africa Republic, and South Africa.

At the 2007 Oxford, Rafael Marques described the response of the diamond industry to accusations of atrocities. “There have been shifts by the central and local authorities to address the accusations, either for damage control or simply to make more sophisticated the methods of abuse by outsourcing violence to private security companies,” he said.

The brilliant-cut “Chloe” diamond, which weighs 84.37 carats, is the second most expensive stone ever sold at auction. Sotheby’s press releases describe how Cohen held the 385-carat rough stone in his hand two years ago, before it was cut, when he allegedly bought it from Endiama.

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Sotheby’s is another company involved in blood diamonds. In 2005 Sotheby’s partnered up with the Israeli-American Steinmetz Diamond Group to form Sotheby’s Diamonds. Beny and Danny Steinmetz of the Steinmetz Group are partnered with Dan Gertler, a new White House insider considered the unofficial “Ambassador” to the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country cursed by diamonds and other minerals, where at least seven million people have died since 1996.

Sotheby’s sold 385 gems at the auction, for a total of 64 million Swiss francs, many being diamonds from the blood diamond economy. With the “Chloe” diamond sale the 2007 total for “Magnificent Jewels sold at Sotheby’s Switzerland” hit $106,019,622. French billionaire Francois Pinault owns Christie’s (London) and Sotheby’s (Delaware).

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Georgianne Nienaber is an investigative environmental and political writer. She lives in rural northern Minnesota and South Florida. Her articles have appeared in The Society of Professional Journalists' Online Quill Magazine, the Huffington (more...)

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