Despite eight rounds of sweeping EU sanctions against Moscow, Russian diamonds have remained a shining absence from the bloc’s embargo list. That may be because Belgium is home to the world’s largest diamond trading center in Antwerp, The Guardian reported on Monday.
According to the report, citing statistics from the National Bank of Belgium, 25% of rough diamonds passing through Antwerp traditionally come from Russia.
The data showed that in 2021, Belgium imported 1.8 billion euros ($1.8 billion) worth of Russian diamonds and 1.2 billion euros in the first eight months of 2022. This has been a tumultuous year, with imports soaring in June to 393 million euros and then falling. clearly. In August, Belgium imported 35.9 million euros worth of Russian diamonds, compared to 215.4 million euros in the same month of 2021, an 83% drop year-on-year.
Tom Neys, spokesman for the Antwerp World Diamond Center (AWDC), told the outlet that the June spike reflected diamond deals that were “already closed” before the start of the Russian military operation in Ukraine.
Neys, however, is against an import ban, saying Antwerp must stay “an open door for businesses that have no options.” According to him, big companies have alternatives to Russian diamonds, “but for small traders it’s very difficult…that’s when you’re going to be crushed to death if they don’t have an alternative.”
The spokesman said some niche sectors had no alternative, citing as an example Russian industrial diamonds, which were the standard for surgical eye scalpels.
The AWDC has warned that 10,000 jobs will be at risk if the import of Russian diamonds stops. The ban would trigger an exodus of diamond merchants from Antwerp to the Middle East and India, countries that still trade with Russia, he claimed. “This is not a vague warning: you will end up with the risk that the whole of the 40 billion euros [annual turnover] will go to India or Dubai and they will become the biggest mall in the world,” said Neys.
The Belgian government insists that it has never sought to block anti-Russian sanctions. Yet sources told the Guardian that when Russian mining giant Alrosa was included in the latest round of EU sanctions, Brussels abstained. The sanctions were then adopted unanimously without any mention of Alrosa, the report notes.
Now Poland and the Baltic states are pushing again for Russian diamonds to be included in the next round of EU sanctions, which are expected before the end of the year.
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