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Disappearing Diamonds

By Khadija Sharife. From time to time, a VIP-configured Airbus jetted into Lanseria International Airport, a small and privately-owned base facility near Johannesburg, South Africa. The plane, an Airbus 319CJ, also stopped at Zimbabwe’s Harare airport. It carried important people and was widely believed to ferry some precious—and illicit–cargo: Zimbabwe’s conflict diamonds.

The diamonds came from one of the largest diamond troves in history: Marange. Spanning 173,000 acres and priced at $800 billion in rough diamonds, Marange’s concentration of treasure is eight times higher than average, at more than 1,000 carats per hundred tons.

The plane, first identified [2] in report by the British nonprofit organization Global Witness, has been used to move diamonds out of Zimbabwe. Money from their export has gone to cement the hold of President Robert Mugabe, and finance Zimbabwe’s notorious secret police—responsible for killing, raping and maiming hundreds of artisanal miners in an operation to clear out Marange in 2008.

An examination of purchasing documents, corporate records and interviews with relevant officials by 100Reporters has, for the first time, parted the curtain on the plane’s ownership to reveal links between the mysterious jet, Zimbabwe government officials, law firms and investors with holdings across the globe, from the UK to China, Angola to Bermuda to Wall Street.

Read the full article on 100reporters.

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