Parly questions Antwerp diamond auction

HARARE - Government has confirmed dispatching a team of lawyers to Belgium seeking  to recover $45 million seized at the Antwerp World Diamond Centre in Belgium last week.

As first exclusively revealed by the Daily News this week, Amari Platinum Holdings Limited (Amari) won a temporary relief to freeze the Antwerp diamond auction proceeds, in line with an international tribunal’s ruling that the unilateral cancelling of its mining venture with the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation was wrong.

Zanu PF MP Daniel Shumba questioned Mines minister Walter Chidhakwa in Parliament yesterday why the country’s diamond mineral revenue was not protected.

“Why are we exposing our minerals and assets to international dealers who may legally or illegally attach them?” Shumba asked.

“What policy informs the minister to continue to expose us to such external risk?”

Chidhakwa said: “We have dispatched a team of lawyers to look at this matter in Belgium and we have confidence that we are going to have favourable results out of the litigation. The problem was that Amari holdings went to court in Belgium without giving us the chance to respond.” 

About $45 million in diamond revenue was on Friday seized by a South African company in Belgium after it had been granted an interim order against President Robert Mugabe’s cash-strapped government over a cancelled platinum concession.

Amari had taken the crisis-ridden administration to the International Court of Arbitration (ICC) with a $500 million suit and Harare risks losing more assets, and cash to global creditors taking advantage of its decision to “transact in hostile jurisdictions”.

Chidhakwa faced some questions — and criticism from legislators — about the decision to “trade diamonds in a hostile juridical zone.”

He defended the offshore auctions on the basis that they were actually helping to “allay fears of underhand dealings”.

Zimbabwe, which was holding its third Belgian sale after the lifting of restrictive measures on the industry in 2013, was expecting a $70 million-plus windfall from the auction.

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