Around 25 years ago I went with a friend of mine to a hotel on London’s Edgware Road close to the flyover.
My friend had a business relationship with a wheeler-dealer who amongst other things bought diamonds.
We were to meet – I was going to say two large South Africans – but then all the white South Africans I have ever met have been large.
I had filed the encounter away in the draw in my brain marked – did that really happen or am I imagining it? Then the recent trial of Charles Taylor brought it all back.
I went along as purely an observer and over coffee the South Africans explained the deal.
We would fly to Sierra Leon with a large amount of cash in dollars in a bag. On touchdown we would be met by the men who would take us out in to the wilds in a jeep with an armed guard. We would then meet all the local diamond dealers in the bush and buy their stock handing out cash from our bag of dollars. Needless to say these were uncut diamonds or “dirty looking stones” as Naomi Campbell would describe them. Then when we had spent all our money and had the bag full of priceless stones we would be escorted back to the airport and jet home safe and sound.
Of course we reacted with delight at the thought of such a simple deal, enthusiastically shook hands and left to consult our principal. Needless to say we never did jet out to Sierra Leon and I’ve steered clear of that part of the Edgware Road ever since.
All of this came back to mind with the trial of the former Liberian War Lord and President Charles Taylor in The Hague and the allegations of blood diamonds. He is accused of war crimes during Sierra Leone’s civil war, including using the diamonds to fund rebels. It may have been 13 years ago but as Naomi Campbell is now finding out diamonds – and their blood trail – are for ever!