GJEPC’s Efforts to Curb Conflict Diamond Trade in Surat Fall Short

Loopholes in Kimberley Process Certification Scheme Exposed as scores of individual diamond traders have been traveling to conflict zones, such as Sierra Leone and other African countries, in search of diamonds stolen by artisanal workers from the diamond mines


Mumbai : Surat’s diamond industry, known as a global hub for diamond cutting and polishing, has been facing severe challenges in preventing the influx of conflict diamonds into its legitimate trade. The Gems and Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC), appointed as the nodal agency for the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) in India, has been unable to effectively plug the loopholes, allowing the illicit trade to persist.

The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) was established with a mandate from the United Nations to prevent the trade in conflict diamonds, which are diamonds mined in war zones and sold to finance armed conflicts against governments. India, as one of the founder participants, has been compliant with the KPCS since its implementation in January 2003. However, recent revelations highlight the failure of the certification process within Surat’s diamond industry.

Scores of individual diamond traders have been traveling to conflict zones, such as Sierra Leone and other African countries, in search of diamonds stolen by artisanal workers from the diamond mines. These traders procure rough diamonds from the illicit sources at throwaway prices and bring them back to Surat without the required KP certification. The Indian law enforcement agencies, including Customs, DRI, and ED, have been unable to track the diamond traders involved in this illegal trade.

Once these conflict diamonds reach Surat, they are either cut and polished in small diamond factories or sold to rough diamond dealers in the bustling Mahidharpura diamond market. Shockingly, neither the diamond traders nor the market participants in Surat demand Kimberley Process certification for the diamonds, allowing the illegal trade to thrive unchecked.

The GJEPC, entrusted with the responsibility of KPCS implementation and certification within the country, claims to diligently ensure that conflict diamonds are kept out of India’s mainstream diamond industry. The council also assists the Government of India’s representatives in international forums on matters related to the Kimberley Process. However, the reality on the ground reveals a different picture.

The failure of GJEPC’s efforts raises questions about the effectiveness of the certification process and its ability to safeguard the industry from conflict diamonds. It is evident that the existing mechanisms are insufficient to prevent the illicit trade in Surat’s diamond market.

A diamond industry analyst said, “The diamond industry in Surat, a vital economic contributor, must prioritize stringent adherence to the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme”. “Stakeholders, including the GJEPC, law enforcement agencies, and market participants, need to collaborate and strengthen their efforts to identify and curb the inflow of conflict diamonds. This entails establishing better monitoring systems, increasing awareness among traders and consumers, and implementing strict penalties for non-compliance.”

Surat’s diamond business has a reputation to safeguard, and maintaining ethical standards requires swift action to close any gaps that currently exist. Restoring trust in the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme and making sure all diamonds traded in and out of Surat’s diamond market are confirmed as coming from responsible sources is critical. This is the only way for Surat to regain respect as a legitimate diamond trading hub on the international stage, he added.