A notorious Russian mercenary group has been accused of exporting diamonds to Belgium via a front company in the Central African Republic (CAR), a recent report by De Standaard and international partners has found.
The Wagner group, which is suspected of committing numerous war crimes in Ukraine and elsewhere, is believed to have set up a front company called 'Diamville' in the CAR in 2019, through which it is estimated to have exported €132,000 of diamonds to Belgium in November of that year.
According to De Standaard, the fact that Diamville is a front company for Wagner has been confirmed by "five sources from the diamond sector in Bangui", the capital of the CAR.
It has been further corroborated by the fact that Diamville was founded on the same day as Bois Rouge, a timber-exporting company also based in the CAR which is similarly suspected of functioning as another front for Wagner.
A strenuous denial
The Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC), the lobbying body which officially represents the Antwerp diamond sector, has strenuously denied the allegations that Belgian companies have imported any diamonds, either directly or indirectly, from Wagner.
"As far as we know, Diamville trades exclusively with Dubai," said Tom Neys, a spokesman for the AWDC. "Diamville is not part of the Antwerp trading environment and it [therefore] goes without saying that the company's possible ties [to the Wagner group] are not on our radar.”
Neys also downplayed the overall impact of diamond exports from the CAR to Belgium, claiming that they represent "less than 1% of the total imports of diamonds in Antwerp".
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The latest allegations come against the backdrop of Belgium's highly controversial — and continuing — relationship to Russia's diamond industry.
According to a November report by The Guardian, Belgium imported €1.2bn of Russian diamonds in the first eight months of 2022. This figure represents only a moderate decrease compared to 2021, when it imported €1.8bn over the entire year.
In response, the AWDC has claimed that a ban on Russian diamonds could lead to up to 10,000 job losses across Belgium's diamond industry, and has also emphasised the increasingly vital role played by diamonds in numerous high-tech medical devices.
In speech delivered to Belgium's Federal Parliament in March, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy issued a scathing rebuke to those "who believe that Russian diamonds in Antwerp, for example, are more important than the war in Eastern Europe".
"Peace is worth more than anything, more than any values, more than any diamonds," Zelenskyy said.