The recent case in which employees of the Indian technology company the GIA uses to maintain its secure database allegedly fraudulently upgraded the reports of just over 1,000 diamonds that were submitted to the GIA for grading, clearly sets off alarm bells. We cannot but be horrified at the details published about this case.
Clearly, we must wait for the police and any other authorities to fully investigate, but on the face of it the case indicates very strongly the high level of vigilance our industry needs to maintain. The number of stones affected is relatively small, but this is not the point. The diamond bourses cannot allow any illicit activity whatsoever in our trade and must take all steps possible to ensure that consumers know we are an industry that has zero tolerance for any such illegality.
Over-grading of diamonds has been seen in several instances over the past couple of years in different countries, showing that there are, unfortunately, some elements in our midst across the diamond world who are willing to descend to such depths in order to increase their profits.
For me, as the President of The World Federation of Diamond Bourses (WFDB), this kind of illegal behaviour, is even more objectionable. That is because the WFDB, which has been in existence for almost 70 years, represents all the official diamond bourses in the world. Currently, we have 30 affiliated diamond exchange members covering the whole diamond world on every continent.
The WFDB plays a vital role in the global diamond industry, representing as it does most of the people involved in the worldwide trade via our affiliated bourses. One of our specific aims at the WFDB is to protect the interests of our affiliated bourses and their individual members. Members of exchanges who are found to have acted against the laws and by-laws of their bourse and of the WFDB can be banned from all member bourses, thus ensuring that they cannot cause further injury. This acts as a strong deterrent to illicit activity and helps ensure that the global diamond industry is able to work in a smooth, honest and transparent manner.
We insist that diamond exchange members promise to uphold our traditions, principles of mutual trust, consideration and friendship. Abiding by these principles ensures that they serve as a basis in business relations between members of the affiliated bourses worldwide. This is at the heart of our mission and cases of over-grading are precisely the type of activity we aim to root out.
There can be no question of flexibility where over-grading or changes to grading are concerned. One lab that was suspected of over-grading diamonds was closed down earlier this year. There was also the case in May where the GIA in Israel recalled more than 400 diamonds that appeared to have been treated with a special coating that enabled their colour grading to be 'improved' by several grades. There can be no place for such criminal activity, and I was delighted that the Israel Diamond Exchange immediately started a series of meetings with all the relevant authorities and personnel with the aim of dealing with this case in the most thorough way possible.
Similarly, in India, the country's national umbrella body, the Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC), together with the Bharat Diamond Bourse in Mumbai, rapidly began a joint investigation into this case of computer hacking and report changes. The inquiry team is composed of senior members from both organisations and this is heartening to see because it makes clear to all, especially to the general public reading about this case, the gravity with which it is being dealt.
I say unequivocally: where there are bad eggs in our midst, the diamond bourses, with the support of the WFDB, must have no compunction in dealing with them. This is a relatively small number of people, but their actions can have incalculable consequences for our many thousands of members across the globe. They must be rooted out and prevented from trading diamonds.
Let us also keep in mind that despite the seriousness of this alleged activity and the danger that they may affect consumer confidence, they relate to a tiny number of diamonds compared to the millions of carats that are sold annually around the world.
Few industries have taken the steps to open up their operations with full transparency to ensure that measures are put in place in the way that the diamond industry has done, particularly in relation to our Kimberley Process work.
We all need to maintain high levels of vigilance to ensure that no falsely graded diamonds are allowed to enter the pipeline.
We are members of an industry that creates objects of exceptional beauty and which represent the very finest human characteristics of love and life-long commitment. In addition, we are one of the most highly self-regulated industries in the world and that is something that all of us can be hugely proud. Consequently, we must be seen to be dealing with illicit actions with a heavy and swift hand.
In today's world of instant communication, news is rapidly and widely delivered and the impact is immediate. That is why it is critical that the weeds in our garden be uprooted so that consumers can see that we have no tolerance for such activity.
I look forward to hearing the results of the investigation. And, if there is a proven case of wrong-doing, for the punishment by the Indian authorities to be severe.