AT least 140 diamonds have been confiscated from illegal dealers after they failed to heed the government’s call to surrender the gems on or before 31 January 2021, Mining minister Mr Serialong Qoo has said.
These will be part of 493 diamonds which will be auctioned some time next month, Mr Qoo added.
Addressing legislators in parliament this week, Mr Qoo said, “the Ministry of Mining expects to auction a total of 493 diamonds in an open and transparent auction process open to all who have an interest”.
“We are expecting buyers from all corners of the world to come and bid in large numbers since the Covid-19 regulations have been relaxed to facilitate travel.
“Of the 493 diamonds, 140 were seized from illegal dealers in a joint campaign with the police while the rest were voluntarily handed over to the ministry.
“All revenue from the illegal diamonds shall be forfeited to the state while the proceeds for diamonds which were voluntarily handed to the government will be paid into their bank accounts of the former owners of the diamonds.
“The government had initially said it would deduct a 4 percent commission but upon review, it has been agreed that they will not be charged anything for the diamonds.
“It has also been resolved that all those who voluntarily surrendered their diamonds will be given transport by the government from wherever they are based to enable them to attend the auction.
“Since this will be the first time to hold such an event locally in our mining history, it shall be graced by His Majesty King Letsie III, the Prime Minister (Dr Moeketsi Majoro), members of parliament and senators,” Mr Qoo said.
He however, did not say where the auction would be held.
Parliament had in November 2020 approved the Precious Stones (Prevention of Illicit and Theft of Diamonds) Regulations 2020 to allow for the surrender and declaration of diamonds whose holders do not have proper documentation. The amnesty period was for three months ending 31 January 2021.
Despite the expiry of the amnesty, Mr Qoo said soon after the auction they will conduct inter-district tours to urge those still holding onto illegal diamonds to surrender them to the state.
“Soon after the auction we shall be visiting all districts and encouraging illegal miners to surrender their diamonds. We are also looking at issuing them licences and we promise that the licence fees shall be affordable,” Mr Qoo said.