Royal gift or ‘stolen’ gem? Calls for UK to return 500 carat Great Star of Africa diamond to Nkonza
The diamond, which comes from the Great Star of Africa (GSA), was seized in South Africa by the Kimberley Process. The GSA is a group of countries that have signed a protocol to protect and conserve the gems of their origin. The GSA protocol was adopted by the Kimberley Process in 1988 after a dispute between Japan and South Africa about ownership of the diamond. The GSA was created following a court hearing where the Kimberley Process was established.
The South African government’s refusal to return the diamond is at a standstill and will be debated at court. The diamond was allegedly stolen from the private residence of an Israeli businessman, who claimed it as his personal gift to the then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
The UK’s High Commission in South Africa has said that if the British government does not return the diamond it will become a part of a long list of “disputed material” that the government would be responsible for handling.
The South African government is seeking an annulment of the Kimberley Process and claims that the diamond was illegally seized by the former South African government.
After a lengthy legal battle, the current South African government has settled for an agreed price of R14 million for the diamond. This price has since been increased to R18 million.
The British government has also agreed to return the diamond to Nkonza, the current owners of the GSA, which was transferred to the GSA in the 1980s by an investment syndicate under the guidance of the then British foreign secretary, Douglas Home.
But Britain has still not returned the diamond and the Nkonza family is seeking to reverse the decision by the UK High Commission in South Africa to grant the diamond to them.
There is a strong and growing international consensus that the Kimberley Process framework is a necessary part of international efforts to control the trade in diamonds. However, the Kimberley Process has now been widely criticised by the diamond industry