LLD fails gem selection testBy: DENVER KISTING
LEV LEVIEV Diamonds (LLD) Namibia did not make the cut against other competitors applying for rough diamonds from the Namibia Diamond Trading Company (NDTC).
Brent Eiseb, NDTC spokesperson, yesterday afternoon said: “Due to intense competition for rough diamonds, NDTC is not in a position to meet the needs of all companies wishing to receive rough diamond supply from NDTC.” According to him, they ran a selection process last year which was overseen by their shareholders – Government and De Beers. The selection criteria were aimed at the long-term viability and sustainability of the cutting and polishing industry in Namibia.
Managing director of LLD Kombandayetu Kampwanga (right) yesterday said they dispute the reasoning behind the rejection.
He remains hopeful that LLD and NDTC will still reach an agreement.
Following its failure to continue buying diamonds from NDTC, LLD sent its 150 employees home on unpaid leave for an indefinite period on Monday.
This amounts to an illegal retrenchment, National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW) secretary general Evilastus Kaaronda charged yesterday.
Kaaronda said the union is “dealing with it”.
The move comes less than a month after managing director Kampwanga denied that there were plans to shut down operations. Taking The Namibian on an elaborate tour through the plant, he then said: “They are talking lies. You have the evidence. As I said, there are people who are against LLD for their own agendas.”
On Monday evening, the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) reported that the company had informed all its employees “to go on unpaid leave indefinitely”.
It was announced that the move came after Government’s alleged refusal to renew the company’s five-year licence to buy diamonds from the Namibia Diamond Trading Company (NDTC).
According to the report, the Ministry of Mines and Energy withdrew the licence because of non-compliance with its requirements.
“LLD Diamonds Namibia is examining other legal avenues to rectify the situation,” Kampwanga said
Isak Katali, the Minister of Mines and Energy, yesterday afternoon said it was true that LLD did not get its NDTC sight (right to buy diamonds from NDTC). However, Katali said, his ministry is not responsible for licence renewals or sight allocation – that is the NDTC’s prerogative.
On May 16, he said that the company has a turnover of US$20 million per year. “The factory is running perfectly. It’s not making any loss.”
The company has been mired in controversy since January last year when the Police confiscated 1 825 diamonds, suspecting that they were not polished in Namibia because LLD employees could not present their manufacturing history to the Police.
Last month, Kampwanga said the Police had not returned the confiscated diamonds.
According to him, the confiscation “didn’t really affect the business” as “there are things like insurance”.
“I believe in our justice system. If it comes into the open, justice will deal with it. For me, it’s a forgotten case.”
Kampwanga also denied that the diamonds had been confiscated during a routine inspection. “When they came, they came for it [those diamonds]. We found out that it wasn’t part of the system. And they need to find out who did what.”
He said LLD Namibia employs 150 Namibians and six foreigners.
At the time, LLD accused an expatriate Israeli employee, Gabi Shitrit, of being behind the questionable package, saying Shitrit wanted to steal the diamonds.
Shitrit has vehemently denied wanting to steal or having stolen diamonds. He claims that the company bought him a ticket to leave Namibia on the day of the Police raid.
The Israeli citizen has offered to return to Namibia to testify against LLD management provided the Namibian authorities provide him immunity against criminal prosecution. He has not received a response to this offer.
The case allegedly started on December 13 and 14 2010, when LLD Namibia bought six boxes of rough diamonds (weighing 3 371 carats) from the Namibia Diamond Trading Company (NDTC), the sole Namibian marketer of diamonds, owned by Government and De Beers.
According to documents in The Namibian’s possession, LLD General Manager: Import and Export Jordan Kazohua admitted that on December 17 2010 the entire parcel of unpolished diamonds was exported to Israel unopened after it had been sealed at the NDTC offices.
Shitrit claims the polished diamonds that Police confiscated on January 27 last year were smuggled into the country to cover up the shortage caused by the ‘illegal’ export of 3 371 carats of unpolished stones (with an estimated value of about US$2,7 million – N$19 million) to Israel in December 2010.
He says the LLD management instructed him to meet an Israeli conduit (who had a marked R50 note as verification of his identity) and received the polished diamonds in January last year in Windhoek and then took them to the factory. He said he knows that this amounted to a criminal activity but that he had no choice as it was an instruction from the company management in Israel.
In an affidavit sent to the Namibian Police from Israel, Shitrit admitted he received diamonds that were allegedly smuggled into Namibia, but insists he acted on the instructions of the Tel Aviv-based company’s management.
Inspector Kauna Shikwambi of the Police said they have finalised their investigation and forwarded the docket to the Prosecutor General (PG) for a decision.
PG Martha Imalwa, yesterday said the docket was sent to her office at the beginning of June, but she has not had time to peruse it and could not say how long it would take. “You have to read it and reread it and then make up your mind.”