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Back to Critical Documents

UN report's challenge on UNITA's diamond millions

UNITA continues to fund its war in Angola through illegal diamonds sales worth an estimated $100 million last year, according to the latest report from the UN Monitoring Mechanism on Sanctions against UNITA, which was delivered to the President of the UN Security Council on 12 October.

The report (www.un.org/Docs/sc/committees/Angola/966e.pdf) warns that diamonds worth between $1 million and $1.2 million a day are being smuggled out of Angola in contravention of UN sanctions - and that much of this amount sustains the war of the rebel movement UNITA. It points out that, although UNITA has lost much of its mining capacity, the rebels probably sell between 25 and 30 percent of the illegal diamonds leaving Angola - not including sales from its stockpile.

In July 1998 the United Nations imposed an embargo on all Angolan diamonds which do not pass through official state channels - as guaranteed by a certificate of origin. This embargo was put in place in an attempt to stop UNITA gaining funds to pay for its war. The majority of smuggled Angolan diamonds are now not associated with UNITA, but are the result of either tax evasion or a huge strategic operation by competitors of the official diamond-buying organisation ASCorp.

The report also highlights the fact that whilst there are stringent controls on the legal exports of diamonds from Angola, there are currently few controls on the export of diamonds from other countries. It is this lack of an international certification of origin scheme that is being tackled in Luanda at the penultimate Kimberley Process meeting in Luanda as the Angola Peace Monitor went to press.

Despite UNITA earning around $100 million last year, the rebels are reported to be finding it difficult to receive arms and ammunition. The report states that "the loss of control over airstrips has made flights much more dangerous for any carrier. The Mechanism's active monitoring of the arms embargo has also had a deterrent effect".

In an indication that the monitoring of sanctions continues to be a thorn in the side of UNITA, a spokesperson in Portugal, Joffre Justino, commented that the report was "illegal and immoral, really miserable" and called for letters of protest to the UN.

Monitoring Mechanism calls for further action

This was officially the Mechanism's "supplementary" report, having submitted its "final" report on 21 December 2000 with an addendum on 18 April 2001. It built on the groundbreaking work of the UN Panel of Experts which on 15 March 2000 published the findings of a major investigation, known as the "Fowler Report" on how individuals and governments helped UNITA build up a huge arsenal in return for illegal diamonds (see APM no.7 vol.VI).

This latest report hints at the frustration of the members of the Monitoring Mechanism when it states that an, "important issue is the status of the recommendations included in the report presented by the Mechanism on 21 December 2000. The consideration and further implementation of those recommendations by the Security Council will enable the Member States to take appropriate action to address the situation, for the better enforcement of the sanctions".

The UN Security Council has continually deferred accepting or rejecting the recommendations made by the Panel of Experts in March 2000 and the Monitoring Mechanism in December 2000. Now there is the possibility that the Monitoring Mechanism will be wound up, relieving the pressure placed on states and institutions to implement sanctions.

Sanctions were first placed on UNITA in 1993 following its rejection of the elections the previous year and its return to war. The first sanctions banned the sale of arms or petroleum products to UNITA. In October 1997 further sanctions were imposed following UNITA's refusal to abide by its obligations under the Lusaka Protocol which laid the basis for a negotiated peace in Angola. These sanctions included the banning of foreign travel by senior UNITA officials and the closing of UNITA offices abroad. As the situation in Angola deteriorated further and the extent of UNITA's war preparations became apparent, further sanctions were imposed in July 1998, prohibiting the export of all Angolan diamonds which were not sold through official channels with a certificate of origin issued by the Angolan government, banning the sale of mining equipment to UNITA, and freezing its bank accounts.

The report points out that, "in 1999 the Security Council recognised that the imposition of sanctions alone, without the capacity to identify violators and monitor compliance, was insufficient".

The Mechanism was given the task of collecting information and investigating leads relating to violations of sanctions "with a view to improving the implementation of the measures imposed against UNITA". It is composed of five members, Ambassador Juan Larrain (Chile), Ambassador Lena Sundh (Sweden), Christine Gordon (Britain), Ismaela Seck (Senegal), and Wilson Kalumba (Zambia).

During the last six months the Mechanism has visited Angola, Belgium, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, France, Kenya, Portugal, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania and Zambia.

UNITA terror grows

In a hard-hitting section of the report, the Mechanism warns: "UNITA has increased its terrorist attacks on innocent civilians. It has attacked schools, buses and trains. It has shot at people fleeing to escape from the flames of a burning explosion. It has shot at World Food Programme planes carrying not weapons but desperately needed food and humanitarian supplies".

It continues that, "during the last six-month period UNITA has pursued its military activities with attacks in several provinces. The brutal massacre in August 2001 of over 250 people travelling on one of the few remaining trains in the country is a glaring example of how civilians are being targeted. UNITA does not hesitate to use terror, including murder and abduction of civilians, to pursue its own political agenda".

The Mechanism warns that UNITA has increased its political activity and has created organisations that are used primarily as channels for UNITA propaganda. It states that UNITA "representatives" in Europe and the United States of America have been much more active over the last six months, disseminating, "propaganda to justify its continuing military activities, while at the same time arguing for the lifting of Security Council sanctions".

Later in the report it states that the rebels' "propaganda aims at closing all opportunities for peace in Angola other than the one that will best serve the purpose of the armed UNITA. It chooses to disregard the fact that there is an elected parliament in Angola in which UNITA has 70 seats. The UNITA external organisation, many of whose members are living well abroad, disseminates propaganda which demeans those members of UNITA that chose not to continue the armed struggle but who stayed in, or returned to, Luanda to participate in the political process".

UNITA's military capacity on the ground

The report examines the current military composition of UNITA, and underlines that Jonas Savimbi dominates the organisation. According to the report, many of the first and second generation of the UNITA leadership have either been assassinated by UNITA itself or have denounced the use of force and have moved to Luanda to form their own political parties or to be part of the non-armed UNITA movement.

The report states that there is ample evidence that the UNITA leadership is currently concentrated in Moxico province. It continues, "Jonas Savimbi is said to move with 14 or 15 highly trained military guards and a male nurse. The Vice-President, Antonio Dembo; the Secretary-General, Lucas Paulo Lukamba Gato; the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Alcides Sakala; the Chief of Staff, General Geraldo Abreu "Kamorteiro"; and General Esteves "Kamy" Pena are also among the people who fled the UNITA strongholds late in 1999 and are now located in Moxico Province".

It points out that due to a government offensive which in late 1999 drove UNITA out of its strongholds, "there is no longer any civilian/administrative UNITA organisation of importance in the country".

The report outlines UNITA's current military structure, being headed by the Chief of Staff, General Geraldo Abreu "Kamorteiro", and Chief of Operations, General Abilio Kamalata "Numa".

There is a a telecommunications unit (DIVITAC) headed by Brigadier General Domingos Sopite, a logistics unit, and a unit for political coordination (of UNITA armed forces) headed by General Mbula Matady. UNITA is said to still have a good radio network and a capacity to send and receive messages in code. The most common radios in use are solar powered HGF Racal 5 - 30.

UNITA has two major security organs, being the Brigada de Informaçao Geral (BIG), and the Service for Clandestine Intelligence, headed by General Chissende "Buffalo Bill". The report states that "the recent sabotage of an electrical relay station outside Luanda is an indication that the work of clandestinidade and BIG deserves special attention. A sabotage of this nature carried out in the Luanda area is likely to be the result of the action of the clandestine services".

The report warns that since the second half of 2000, a number of senior UNITA members have fled eastern Angola for the refugee camps in Zambia, and that in early 2001 the wives and children of senior UNITA officials went to the camps.

The report states: "the spouses of senior UNITA military personnel and activists, including those of General "Kamy" Pena, of the deceased General "Ben Ben" Pena, of General Aleluia, of special Ambassador Helder "Boris" Mundombe, and of telecommunications expert Chidinho Gato were given permission to go to the camps, where their presence has been confirmed. The head of the UNITA Women's League, Odeth Chilala, has also been identified there. They began arriving in the camps from March/April 2001".

The Mechanism also warns that at the refugee camp of Nangweshi, is highly organised and controlled by UNITA. Many from the political leadership of Jamba fled to this camp before the UNITA town was captured by the Angolan army, including the former chief of police, who was later elected the chief representative of the refugees in the camp.

The Mechanism warns of serious indications of the presence of representatives of BIG in the camp, and that the camp may be used as a logistic base by UNITA. The Mechanism believes that, "ideally the camp should be moved further away from the border. Should that not be possible, another option would be to ensure that the refugee leadership does not include anyone who had leading functions in Jamba, or who could build up UNITA control over the camp".

The Mechanism has also reported information that UNITA uses Zambia as a base for supplies.

UNITA representation abroad

The report points out that UNITA's most important representatives remain in Belgium, Burkina Faso, France, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Switzerland, Togo and the United States.

However, it reports that Togo has decreased in importance as a result of international pressure. It also states that Cote d'Ivoire has cancelled passports issued to UNITA officials and family members. Senior UNITA officials Mines Tadeu and Milu Tonja are reported to be residing in South Africa, although the authorities have "no record of their presence in South Africa".

Air Cess fly in arms

The Mechanism has undertaken critical research into the companies behind the purchasing and shipment of arms to UNITA. Particular attention was paid to the UAE-based Air Cess, which is owned by Victor Bout. According to the report, Air Cess is the single carrier of the bulk of the arms shipments destined for UNITA.

The report alleges that the March 2000 revelation of the involvement of Air Cess in the continuing violations of sanctions has prompted Victor Bout to restructure his company's operations, and that he continues his sanctions-violating activities through a number of subcontractors and partners.

The Mechanism has tracked some Air Cess flights, with a focus on flights through Togo, South Africa, Sudan, Kenya and Egypt. It notes the "the excellent cooperation provided by Egypt, Kenya and the Sudan in providing the data required".

Through this investigation the Mechanism discovered two Air Cess flights carrying a total of 58 tonnes of arms from Moldova in 1998. The arms were sold on the basis of end-user certificates reportedly issued by the Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Guinea. The Mechanism is also looking into a number of flights from Uzbekistan.

UNITA seeking fuel

The Mechanism has received allegations that UNITA has recently been attempting to buy petroleum, and that pilots are being approached and offered up to $100,000 per delivery. The report names Denis Couglan, who is based in Botswana, as being allegedly involved in these ventures.

However, the report points out that the Botswanan authorities had investigated previous allegations against Couglan and concluded that they were unfounded.

UNITA diamond smuggling

The Mechanism found that diamond smuggling from Angola has continued on a large scale, and that UNITA continues to play a large part in this, along with a shadow parallel buying organisation.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Angolan Selling Corporation (ASCorp) informed the Mechanism that between $1 million and $1.2 million of embargoed diamonds leave Angola each day, equivalent to $350 million to $420 million a year. This amount of smuggling represents about five percent of the total value of global rough diamond supply last year.

The Angolan Government has told the Mechanism that the smuggling is not mainly carried out by UNITA, but by other players. Action has been taken against middlemen who have been buying diamonds but not selling them on to ASCorp as required by law. Recently ASCorp withdrew credentials from 400 middlemen who were found to be involved in this illegal trade.

The Mechanism agrees that UNITA is no longer the main diamond smuggler, as the rebels probably sell between 25 and 30 percent of illegal Angolan diamonds. However, this still puts the income to UNITA at around $100 million a year.

The Mechanism highlights the progress in the Kimberley Process, which aims to put together a woldwide certificate of origin system. It also shows the efforts of the Angolan government along with the government of Belgium and diamond industry bodies to crack down on "conflict diamonds".

But the report's message is stark:

"The primary responsibility for intercepting diamonds mined in defiance of the embargo clearly lies with states, yet diamonds equivalent to the production of an entire country are reaching markets across the world. To date not a single parcel of illicit Angolan gems has been intercepted anywhere, to the knowledge of the Mechanism, beyond one suspect parcel in Belgium under the previous Angolan certificate-of-origin regime. No diamond dealer has claimed to have witnessed Angolan gems being traded on any diamond bourse. These diamonds seem to vanish into thin air after leaving Angola. How is this even possible, given the magnitude of the trade, which is close to the value of the output of Australia or Namibia? Perhaps more importantly, why is it possible for diamonds to vanish?"

The report questions whether there is a shadow buying structure in Angola. It states that "police and diamond security sources in Angola and sources in Antwerp have suggested that there is in fact an illegal, "shadow" diamond buying structure, or structures, operating inside Angola, and this is borne out by information available to the Mechanism, and by evident corporate connections between several of the companies under review".

>From its analysis, the Mechanism points out that it appears that the Antwerp and South African markets are two key points of sale or transit for embargoed diamonds, and that Israel is being used as a laundering route for some imports.

The Mechanism has received information from several sources stating that illegal Angolan diamonds are not being traded in the official Bourses in Antwerp and that this "does suggest that there are hidden systems for trading all illicit gems from Angola, not just those being mined by UNITA".

The Mechanism points out that UNITA, "trades mainly with companies it trusts and with whom it has long-standing business relationships. All the available information points to UNITA and its business associates using well-established trading routes through neighbouring countries, or to the use of illegal buyers operating inside Angola, known to UNITA, and having relationships with the diamond companies working with UNITA".

The Mechanism details efforts by the Angolan government to halt the illicit trade in diamonds. The Angolan government in September announced that it had made a Belgian/British company, the Diamond Inspection and Security Corps, the main security body for the elimination of illicit diamonds, working with the security team in ASCorp. The new body will report to the vice-Minister of Geology and Mines every three months.

The decision to give this task to DISC was made when it was realised that the previous bodies had "failed to take effective action against the numerous illicit diamond buyers operating from Luanda".

Outside Angola, the Mechanism reported that several countries have been used as transit points for smuggled diamonds, including Congo-Kinshasa, Tanzania, South Africa and Zambia.

UNITA finances

The Monitoring Mechanism has been working with Kroll Associates to track UNITA's financial assets. The investigation has found assets, in the form of bank accounts, companies and real estate, held in the names of senior UNITA officials in Cote d'Ivoire, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Switzerland and the United States.

It has established that offshore financial centres continue to play a major role as havens for UNITA funds and in facilitating financial transactions.

The Mechanism has also established that since the announcement of sanctions, UNITA's network has experienced a decrease in liquidity. The report states that travel restrictions have proved particularly important in this regard.

The investigation focussed on tracing the financial assets of senior UNITA officials, networks of smugglers of UNITA diamonds, and other suppliers to UNITA.

Governments in states where assets have been traced have been contacted for their comments.

SADC initiatives

The Mechanism outlines the initiatives of the Southern African Development Community, which has:

approved a project on mobile radar to control illegal flights across borders;
set up a task force to formulate a strategy to stop the supply of petroleum products to UNITA;
led the Kimberley Process for a diamond certification scheme, which is to lead to a ministerial level meeting in Gaborone in November, and is expected to result in recommendations being put to the next UN General Assembly meeting in December.
The Organisation of African Unity/African Union has also taken steps to support sanctions against UNITA, including the establishment of an ad-hoc committee to monitor sanctions, states the report.

Future of monitoring

The reports states that, "the experience of the Monitoring Mechanism on Sanctions against UNITA has shown that there is a need for establishing a permanent capability of the Security Council to ensure ongoing monitoring of targeted sanctions regimes and illicit trafficking in high-value commodities in armed conflicts".

It continues that, "such a new unified facility under the authority of the Security Council would maintain the political momentum gained in recent years on the question of sanctions enforcement and in the fight against the illicit trafficking fuelling armed conflicts. It would be cost-effective, and would avoid duplication of tasks and overlapping of investigations and ensure the preservation of a comprehensive database as well as its systematic and continuing processing. It would also permit the establishment of permanent and fruitful working relations with technical and regional organisations such as Interpol, ICAO, SADC, ECOWAS, OAU, the Wassenaar Arrangement and the World Customs Organisation, all of which are essential partners in an effective implementation of sanctions".

It states that, "a permanent monitoring capability will also strengthen the enforcement of sanctions, because it will act as a deterrent to potential violations".

Security Council extends mandate

On 19 October the UN Security Council adopted a resolution extending the mandate of the Monitoring Mechanism for a further 60 days, during which time the Mechanism is to provide a Security Council committee with an action plan for its future work. Four experts are to serve on the Monitoring Mechanism.


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