A BELGIAN-AMERICAN fugitive wanted in connection with the trafficking of blood diamonds was arrested at Malaga-Costa del Sol Airport on Friday (August 28).
He was picked up by National Police officers at the airport as he was about to board a flight to the United States under a European Arrest Warrant issued by the Belgian authorities.
The 64-year-old businessman is reported to be the first person to be arrested on suspicion of trading blood diamonds – the illegal gems used to finance the brutal civil war in Sierra Leone in the 1990s, in which more than 50,000 people died.
He is accused of using slave labour to mine for diamonds in Sierra Leone, then of trafficking the stones to Liberia, where the former president Charles Taylor, now in jail for his role in war crimes in the conflict, used them to fund a rebel army back in Sierra Leone.
Ibrahim Tommy, the executive director of the Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL), in Freetown, Sierra Leone, said: “This is another significant step forward in our collective efforts at ensuring accountability for the crimes that occurred during the conflict in Sierra Leone… This case will also help to shed light on the otherwise discreet drivers of the infamous ‘blood diamond’ trade in Sierra Leone.”
Alain Werner, the director of Civitas Maxima, a Geneva-based association working to represent the victims of war crimes, said: “This is a landmark case, the first of its kind, and it will help to raise awareness of the pivotal role played by financial actors in the trade of mineral resources that fuel armed conflicts in Africa and elsewhere.”
On Monday, a Spanish court spokesperson said the accused was expected to be handed over to the Belgian authorities shortly.