Cape Town, South Africa — MININGREVIEW.COM — 28 May 2008 – A new task team is to be formed to investigate the records of diamond giant De Beers, which is alleged to have exported a large quantity of diamonds to London during the 1990s.
Reuters reports from here that some parliamentarians have alleged that De Beers exported large volumes of gems during the period leading to black majority rule in South Africa – a time of massive capital flight and tax avoidance.
The task team recommendation – contained in a public accounts committee report adopted by parliament – re-opens a long-standing dispute both De Beers and a senior South African government official said last year had been settled.
The news agency reports that the new task team, assisted by South Africa’s auditor-general, would examine the De Beers London stockpile records in the period between December 3, 1992 and March 19, 1998. “What we want resolved is whether De Beers had the legal right to export the diamonds that it did,” Themba Godi, chairman of parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts told Reuters.
“If it was legal then that’s the end of the story. But if it was not, then it means that the amount that was due to the fiscus as tax must be returned to the state by De Beers,” Godi added. He said the amount was in the region of 1 billion rand.
A De Beers official said the company may issue a comment on the newly-launched probe later.
The Department of Minerals and Energy and the South African Reserve Bank should also compare its data to determine the exact quantities and values of exports during the same period, the report recommended.
Parliament also agreed that national treasury obtain independent, constitutional legal opinion on certain sections of the 1986 Diamond Act, and of agreements entered between De Beers and government.