South Africa: Man swallows 220 diamonds in smuggling attempt

GlobalPost
International banks are helping Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's regime to sell blood diamonds despite international restrictions, according to new reports.
Mandel Ngan

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Police have arrested a man who allegedly swallowed 220 polished diamonds and tried to smuggle them out of the country.

The 25-year-old unnamed man, said to be of Lebanese origin, was caught with the gems worth $2.3 million while trying to board a plane from Johannesburg to Dubai.

South Africa's elite police unit, the Hawks, stopped the man at OR Tambo International Airport after responding to a tip, the South African Press Association reported.

“We nabbed him just before he went through the security checkpoint,” Hawks spokesman Paul Ramaloko told Agence France-Presse.

Ramaloko told the Daily Mail that officers gave the man laxatives to expel the diamonds from his system.

In March, a 27-year-old Lebanese man was similarly arrested at OR Tambo airport with $1.7 million in diamonds, SAPA reported.

Police are investigating whether the two are part of a diamond-smuggling syndicate.

While South Africa was previously one of the world's biggest producers of diamonds, many are now mined in neighboring Zimbabwe and Botswana. 

A report released Monday by the Canadian watchdog group Partnership Africa Canada accused Zimbabwe’s government of pilfering $2 billion in diamonds from the country's lucrative Marange fields and using the money to enrich corrupt government officials.

More from GlobalPost: The case of Zimbabwe’s stolen diamonds