Abel Zhakata Senior Reporter
ILLEGAL diamond activities have soared at Chiadzwa amid reports that underpaid workers at the firms are supplying several carats of the precious mineral to a new crop of foreign buyers that have flooded Mutare.
A month-long investigation by this paper has shown that disgruntled employees at the mines who are on half salaries are supplementing their meagre takings by stealing pieces of diamond in apparent well-connected syndicates.
As a result, the country is losing millions of dollars through the leakages.
Sources revealed that the syndicates are well oiled, involving managers, sorters and security personnel.
The looted diamonds, which are owned jointly, are sold to foreign buyers in Mutare who are either camped at lodges in the city or are renting apartments in upmarket suburbs.
Some of the stolen stones are smuggled into Mozambique through the Forbes Border Post where there are no detectors as well as numerous illegal exit points along the porous border.
“Workers are stealing the gems at an unprecedented rate. Have you noticed that in recent months, diamond mining workers have been taken to court facing allegations of stealing several pieces from their employers? This shows that they are the thieves and are now feeding the illegal market with the precious stones. A few weeks ago, a security guard at this firm (name withheld) was caught with 72 pieces of diamonds in his undergarments.
“The case was swept under the carpet. It was not reported to the police because some senior personnel at the company were involved,” said a source that chose not to be named.
In terms of carats production, the Chiadzwa fields are the largest diamond producing project in the world, estimated to have produced 16.9 million carats in 2013 which amounts to 13 percent of the global rough diamond supply. Six employees with Mbada Diamonds were in March this year taken to court on allegations of stealing and supplying diamonds worth $3 million to an Indian businessman in Mutare in an alleged well-calculated scandal that saw them being paid in vehicles.
“The country is losing millions because the workers are working in cahoots due to the little salaries they are now being paid. If you track their lives back home some of them own several cars and are building mansions yet they are mere security guards. Well known illegal diamonds trading places in Mutare where runners usually meet the workers are now a hive of activity. Diamonds and cash are changing hands regularly,” said the source .