(Rapaport…January 14, 2003) Orbal Marketing Services, a company with offices in Australia and Liberia, recently released a statement claiming that it can legally sell diamonds from Liberia. Doing so, however, would violate a United Nations (UN) ban on buying diamonds from the country.
Orbal released a document outlining its procedures for selling Liberian diamonds on January 8. It reads in part, “The UN embargo has been lifted. Since the signing of the peace accord, there are no longer any restrictions on trade with Liberia. Diamonds can be purchased through the representative office of Orbal Marketing Services Liberia, Ltd.”
According to UN spokeswoman Marie Okabe, “The embargo is still in effect and I don’t know what prompted this company to announce otherwise.” A committee overseeing the sanctions against Liberia will be notified of Orbal’s claims, she added.
The embargo against Liberian diamonds was imposed in May 2001 over the government’s alleged support of Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels in neighboring Sierra Leone. It was extended by the Security Council in May and November 2002, and is up for review again in May 2003.
Orbal said it will sell Liberian diamonds from its Australian office. The address it gave is actually the address of Australia’s Liberian consulate, according to Matt Francis, a spokesman for the Australian embassy in the U.S. Francis said that he found Orbal’s statement “very intriguing and highly irregular,” adding that the Australian Foreign Ministry will investigate.
Orbal representatives could not be reached for comment. Calls to Liberia’s embassy in the United States were not returned.