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Report claims $2B in diamond thefts

Nov. 13, 2012 at 2:45 PM

VICTORIA FALLS, Zimbabwe, Nov. 13 (UPI) -- Zimbabwe's president is denying a non-profit's report that his inner circle has plundered $2 billion in so-called "blood diamonds" since 2008.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's ruling elite have become rich at the country's expense, Partnership Africa Canada said. Zimbabwe's Marange fields, one of the world's riches diamond deposits, should have created at least $2 billion to help build roads, hospitals and schools in the impoverished country. Instead, people close to Mugabe have become inexplicably wealthy, while the nation's finance minister says only a quarter of the promised $600 million has come into the treasury, Voice of America reported Tuesday.

The group called $2 billion a "conservative estimate."

The report was timed to release during a national conference on the nation's diamond trade in Victoria Falls.

Mugabe government officials denounced the report as a "smoke-screen" put forth by governments whose sanctions harm the nation's diamond trade with unfair claims about mining practices.

"Due to the illegal sanctions imposed on the local diamond mining companies, the country has not been able to realize full benefits, particularly from diamonds mined in Marange," Mugabe said. "The diamonds have been marketed at depressed prices owing to a negative buyer perception resulting from these illegal sanctions. I don't know why sanctions are still imposed."

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