(Rapaport…January 24, 2002) The day-planner of Wadih el Hage, a former secretary of Osama bin Laden, contains entries that bolster allegations that bin Laden’s al-Qaida terrorist network used the tanzanite trade to fund its operations, according to the Wall Street Journal. El Hage’s journal entries chronicle his efforts to find tanzanite buyers in Europe before eventually finding a jewelry store in London – Holts – that was interested. A gemologist at the store is quoted in the Wall Street Journal article as saying that he does not know whether el Hage came into the store, but that the firm deals in tanzanite and often buys from walk-in sellers.
The day-planner was seized by the FBI in 1997 during investigations that eventually led to el Hage and three other men being convicted last year of conspiracy in connection with the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. El Hage is currently serving a life sentence in a federal prison in Colorado. Detailed information connecting the tanzanite trade to terrorism was first revealed during el Hage’s federal trial, and the Wall Street Journal brought the issue to the public’s attention with a report published last November. Since then, Zale’s, Tiffany and QVC have suspended the sale of tanzanite jewelry.
Representatives from the Jewelers Vigilance Committee (JVC), Jewelers of America (JA) and the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA) met in Washington on January 9 with representatives of the U.S. and Tanzanian governments to discuss the allegations. The National Security Council, Central Intelligence Agency and U.S. Customs Service are currently investigating the ties. No agency has yet to come forward with substantiation of the alleged links, but the investigations are ongoing.
The U.S. jewelry industry has invited dealers, representatives of the Tanzanian government, Tanzanian miners associations, and U.S. trade associations and government officials to a summit scheduled for February 8 in Tucson. The meeting was organized to address the allegations and work on the development of control measures for the tanzanite trade.