(Rapaport…January 3, 2002) An article in the December 30 Washington Post cites diamond dealers, intelligence sources, diplomats and investigators in Belgium, the U.S. and Africa who claim that radical Islamic groups funnel millions of dollars made from Congolese diamond sales to their organizations back home. Among the organizations alleged to be involved is the Lebanon-based movement Hezbollah.
This latest charge comes two months after a previous Washington Post article alleged ties between the sale of Sierra Leone diamonds and Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network.
Sources in the report said members of Hezbollah and other terrorist groups buy diamonds from Congolese miners and middlemen at low cost and smuggle them out of the country, selling the higher-quality stones in Antwerp and the remainder in less-regulated markets such as Bombay and Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates.
“We are beginning to understand how easy it is to move money through commodities like diamonds, which can’t be traced and can be easily stored,” one official is quoted as saying.
Unnamed U.S. officials are cited as saying that investigators are also looking into terrorist links to Congo’s gold and uranium trade.
In November, a group of United Nations experts recommended to the Security Council that a moratorium be imposed on the purchase and import of precious natural resources from Congo, citing numerous individuals and institutions that use the turmoil and chaos caused by the country’s civil war to get rich by exploiting its resources. One of the men identified in the report as a dealer of Congolese conflict diamonds was Aziz Nassour, a Lebanese diamond merchant also linked by witnesses in the November Washington Post article to the sale of Sierra Leone diamonds to al-Qaida operatives on the FBI’s most wanted list.
Nassour is quoted in the latest Washington Post article as saying the allegations of his ties to al-Qaida or other terrorist organizations are “absolutely incorrect and untrue” and that they have “seriously hurt me and my business.” Nassour claims that competitors in the diamond trade conjured up false allegations for their own personal gain.