18 September 2012

Namibia: Diamonds Stolen From Windhoek Polishing Factory

A TOTAL of 17 polished diamonds have been stolen from AMC-Gemxel Diamonds in Windhoek's Prosperita area.

The theft is suspected to have taken place sometime during the last weekend of August, Police Deputy Commissioner Silvanus Nghishidimbwa said yesterday.

He said details about the theft were sketchy and no one had been arrested yet.

Hanganee Gurirab, a director of the company, yesterday also confirmed the theft but referred to it as a "stock imbalance" being investigated by the company.

The resignation of the company's general manager, Eugene Roos, who left the company at roughly the same time as the diamonds went missing, has been questioned by some of factory workers.

However, Gurirab said yesterday that Roos had resigned before the discovery of the missing diamonds and had nothing to do with the incident.

Gurirab could also not confirm the number of missing stones or their value.

"The precise number is not yet known," he said, although the police said they were investigating the theft of 17 gems.

According to Gurirab, the company has also instituted an internal investigation into the incident. Until their probe was finalised, no diamond cutting would be done, he said. Because of this most of the diamond factory's 125 workers have been sent home.

Gurirab could not say how long the investigation is expected to take.

One worker yesterday said: "We are not working normally. Some of the people are not around."

AMC-Gemxel Diamonds is one of 13 companies which recently received concessions, called "sights", from the Namibia Diamond Trading Company (NDTC) to purchase and polish diamonds in the country. These concessions are valid for three years.

Gurirab said the missing stones were reported to the Protected Resources Unit (PRU) of the Namibian Police as required by the Diamond Act.

The PRU commanding officer, Detective Chief Inspector Jackson Kamwangha, confirmed the incident. "I don't have much information about that but there is something like that," he said.

A source with knowledge of the diamond industry said it would be difficult to determine the value of the stolen stones. According to the source, it would depend on the individual polishing stage of the stones.

Brent Eiseb, spokesperson of the NDTC, said they do not comment on "specific issues pertaining to clients and on matters that are within the remit of other authorities, which in cases of this nature would be the Protected Resources Unit (PRU) within the Namibian Police".

This is not the only police investigation into diamonds missing from NDTC sight holders but it is unclear exactly how many probes they are busy with.

On January 27 last year, the police confiscated 1 825 polished diamonds from LLD Diamonds in Windhoek's northern industrial area. These diamonds were suspected to have been smuggled into the country - allegedly to replace a stolen batch.

The story made international headlines following allegations that an transnational syndicate was involed.

At the time, the company claimed that the value of the confiscated stones amounted to N$26 million.

Inspector Kauna Shikwambi yesterday said there were no new developments in the LLD case. "The docket is still with the PG [Prosecutor General]."

She also said that there had been no arrests.

LLD closed its doors recently after it was not awarded a sight by NDTC.

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