March 25 (UPI) — After a pastor found the second-largest diamond ever in Sierra Leone this month, echoes have been heard of government corruption and the nation’s legacy of conflict or “blood” diamonds, leading to rampant speculation about the precious gem’s sale.
The Rev. Emmanuel Momoh was the leader of the freelance mining team that discovered a 706-carat diamond in Sierra Leone, a country known for producing some of the purest — and most lucrative — diamonds in the world. But in a country where the diamond trade financed a decade-long civil war that killed 50,000 people, finding the rare gem almost seems like the easy part when considering its sale.
The incredible find has set off wild speculation in the country about nearly every part of the story. Is Momoh the true finder, or is he a middleman? Was he mining legally when he found the diamond, or had his mining license expired? Is the gem itself, which Sierra Leone’s president showed off on television, even real?
And, given the government’s history of corruption, why go by the book to sell the gem when so many of the diamonds unearthed in Sierra Leone wind up on the black market?
The government has estimated the diamond, roughly the size of a fist, to be worth as much as $50 million. Under Sierra Leone law, diamonds worth a certain amount must be turned over to the government for sale, though that practice is frequently ignored.
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