78-Carat Diamond Heist … exposes Namdeb security lapse


Windhoek – Theft of a 78- carat diamond in a laboratory at Namdeb Diamond Corp’s Oranjemund facilities “is an inside job” and “could only have been committed by people authorised to handle that diamond”.

Namdeb, a joint venture between the southwest African nation, Namibia, and Anglo American Plc’s De Beers Unit would have to “review its security plans to make sure that these particular weaknesses are eliminated” once a police investigation into the theft is completed, Namibia’s Diamond Commissioner, Kennedy Hamutenya, alleged in an interview.

“It’s a big stone, it can’t just go missing like that. The person who stole it has to be somebody in the system,” Hamutenya alleged.

“It has to be somebody authorised to handle that diamond. It’s only people authorised who handle that diamond and who are in those premises.”

Hamutenya made the comments despite the fact that the Namibian police is yet to conclude its investigations into the disappearance of the diamond from the company’s high-security facilities in Oranjemund.

The allegations reveal frustration and disbelief among Namibian authorities at the mysterious disappearance of the stone, mined from the depth of the Atlantic in July.

The 78-carat diamond disappeared from Namdeb’s Oranjemund facilities, a theft which Hamutenya said is baffling given the “tight security” the diamond miner has in place in is entire diamond mining area.

Although investigations are yet to be concluded, Hamutenya expressed fears that the gem could have been whisked out of the country to buyers either in South Africa or abroad.

“We know that stones go missing in the mine sometimes, but not in the laboratory, it’s a hands-off process, there are cubicles where they sort out the stones. The processes are so tight and each stone is registered as it moves from one place to the other.

“For this stone to be stolen, it means that somebody must have rendered it vulnerable to be stolen,” Hamutenya fumed.

Namdeb, which produces the world’s highest quality diamonds, has pointedly refused to comment on the baffling theft, and the on-going investigations. Namdeb’s production rose 6 percent to 1.76 million carats in 2013, with two-thirds of the output coming from marine mining operations.

Market analysts say that while the value of the stone depends on the quality and size of the polished stones that can be cut from it, a 78-carat diamond mined by BHP Billiton Ltd in Canada sold for US$6 million in 2011.

While the missing diamond had not yet been valued, Hamutenya said it is a “special stone and can be cut into many stones”, but refused to place a value on the missing gem saying, ‘ valuation is conducted by at least three parties’.

He speculated that if “the diamond has been taken out into Oranjemund town, it could be already be in transit to some places outside the country”.

“If this stone made it into Oranjemund town, it’s gone already,” Hamutenya said.

He said once investigations are completed, government would review the security arrangements at Namdeb to make sure there are sufficient measures in place and ensure this kind of thing does not happen again.

“People are finding all kinds of ways to beat the system, we have to make sure the security plan is reviewed to make sure this particular weakness is eliminated,” Hamutenya stated.

September 2014
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