4 January 2013

Mozambique: Tanzanian Arrested in Possession of a Million Dollars

Maputo — The Mozambican police have arrested a Tanzanian citizen in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, in possession of more than a million US dollars in cash, according to a report in Friday’s issue of the Maputo daily “Noticias”.

The man, named only as Victor, was arrested on 8 December. He said the money came from the illegal sale of rubies to a group of Thai citizens a week earlier in the district of Montepuez.

The police have now contacted Interpol to assist in the investigations into the smuggling of rubies.

There is only one company, Montepuez Ruby Mining, which is authorised to mine rubies in the district. This is a joint venture between the Mozambican company Mwiriti and the British Gemfields.

Mwiriti acquired two mining concessions in Montepuez, covering an area of about 32,000 hectares in November 2011. The following month it sought authorisation from the Minisry of Mineral Resources to transfer the title to these concessions to the joint venture with Gemfields.

One of the managing partners of the company, Asghar Fakhr, told “Noticias” that, up to 11 December, when the company heard the news of the arrest of the Tanzanian, it had not sold as mush as a gram of its production. Instead, Montepuez Ruby Mining was still at the phase of testing its concession areas.

He lamented that foreign gem smugglers were still infesting Montepuez, carrying large sums of money to purchase rubies illegally.

The Montepuez ruby deposits have attracted not only the buyers from Thailand, but also illegal miners from Tanzania and the Great Lakes region, as well as from Mozambique itself.

Often the miners have no idea of the true value of the gems. In one case, reported in late 2010, a Mozambican sold 2.7 grams of rubies for 60,000 meticais (about 2,000 dollars). But on the Asian markets, good quality rubies sell for two or three thousand dollars a carat.

One carat is 200 milligrams, and so a gram is five carats. 2.7 grams of good quality rubies would therefore sell for at least 27,000 dollars. And that is the cheap end of the market. Depending on factors such as colour, and finishing, the price of cut rubies can soar to as much as 25,000 dollars a carat.

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