New Era (Windhoek)

Namibia: Commissioner Responds to Diamond Fracas

Windhoek — Diamond Commissioner in the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME), Kennedy Hamutenya, yesterday denounced suggestions by Nambib Resources Managing Director, Dr Subramaniam Ragubathi that diamond inspectors and diamond police officers were involved in foul play in the ongoing saga between Nambib and Bret Investments over the Toscanini diamonds.

He said that under no circumstances were the diamond inspectors and police involved in an illegal or ultra vires manner with respect of the handling, transportation and valuation of diamonds from Toscanini along the Skeleton Coast to Block 3 the Orange River.

Nambib had sent a DVD with a letter to various media houses, implicating Bret Investments, the operator at Toscanini, in a diamond scam, which the operator also vehemently denied.

"The producer and distributor of the said DVD and fiction is under the illusion that Namibia is a banana republic," said Hamutenya.

"I can confidently and safely assert that there is no diamond producing/manufacturing/dealing/trading country in the world with diamond specific legislation and regulations that are more comprehensive than Namibia. In fact, these diamantaires accustomed to working in laissez-faire environments describe our system as draconian," charged Hamutenya.

He said the DVD and letter directed to Bret Investment's lawyers in South Africa, allege a collusion on a grand scale that Government agencies have falsified documents committed "all sorts of unscrupulous acts in order to defraud somebody".

Stating the case, Hamutenya said what had happened was that the Toscanini diamonds in question were brought to Windhoek on November 28 last year. These, he said, were escorted by a diamond inspector and transported to the ministry's offices for valuation.

On the same day, he continued, private security company G4 Security brought a parcel that had been kept by the security company - from Block 3 - also for valuation.

"The two parcels were checked separately and sealed in different parcels marked as per their origins," the diamond commissioner insisted.

Later, he said, the diamonds from Toscanini and Block 3 were sealed in one big envelope and taken by G4 Security for safekeeping.

"There was never any contamination of diamonds as is alleged. No one committed a crime as the contractor [Bret Investment] is authorised by the Security Plan as well as by agreement with the licensee [Nambib Resources] to transport diamonds and bring them in for valuation," Hamutenya said in response, stressing that other issues related to the ongoing fracas between Bret Investment and Nambib are of no concern to the MME.

The only concern of the Government, he said, was his objection to Bret Investment for requesting that the Government Diamond Valuator (GDV) team was called in only to establish the value of the diamonds.

There was also no request to have the diamonds exported, and hence he did not issue a Kimberley Process Certificate.

"When Nambib and Bret together met me and the Minister [of Mines Errki Nghitima] last year I told them that they should stop sapping our valuable energy and concentrate their efforts on developing the diamond resources at Toscanini," said Hamutenya.

The genesis of the quarrel between Nambib and Bret, he said, is a "legal and contractual quagmire".

"[Somebody] is determined to drag us [the ministry] into their rumble and has no regard for the damage caused to the image of our clean diamonds and our sound reputation as an ideal destination for investors," lamented Hamutenya, adding, "The Toscanini saga is fuelled by greed and ego."

In response to an article that appeared in The Namibian on February 20, Ragubathi denied having at any stage accused Hamutenya, the PRU, or Bret Investment of falsifying any official records, as was suggested in the article.

"I questioned the legitimacy of Bret Investment and the officials concerned in the ways that they transported the diamonds, save-keep (sic) the diamonds and brought the diamonds for valuation in an attempt to obtain the Kimberley Process Certificate without any consent of the EPL [Exclusive Prospecting Licence] owner, Nambib Resources," said Ragubathi.

He said Bret Investment did go without an approved security plan, and that the valuation took place on November 22, but that the date reflected on the envelope of the PRU and Diamond Department is November 28.

He said Bret's lawyers had only informed Nambib of the valuation on December 3, 2007 "when they had secretly gone" to the MME on November 22, 2007 "and attempted to obtain" the Kimberley Process Certificate.

Ragubathi maintained that Bret Investment had "manipulated the diamonds of Toscanini and has attempted to register it under a different EPL".

"This is not a civil matter that can be resolved through arbitration: it appears very clearly to be criminal from the angles of the matter," Ragubathi stated.

He further said Bret Investment had not given him N$7 million, as it claimed.

"Nambib Resources has discovered a very huge deposit of diamonds in an area where all geological reports have stated otherwise. It took a period of 12 years of exploration and a lot of sacrifices and expenses to determine the presence of economically viable deposits of diamonds in Toscanini and along the Skeleton Coast.

So the question of Nambib Resources not having any assets but an EPL [as reported from Bret Investment's response earlier] that carries billions of dollars of diamond deposits is good enough reason for Nambib Resource's presence in Namibia," said Ragubathi.

Ragubathi further called on President Hifikepunye Pohamba to intervene "and take actions to protect the rights of investors like me who are here in Namibia".

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