Friday, March 21, 2008

Global Witness: Northern CI still illegally taxing diamonds, cocoa

During Cote d’Ivoire’s civil war that began in 2002, the northern-based Forces Nouvelles raised an estimated $30 million per year through a “parallel tax,” which charged cocoa-laden trucks that traveled through the country, according to a 2007 Global Witness report.

Apparently, the practice is still going on. In a new briefing, the NGO that investigates the links between resource exploitation and corruption found that cocoa trucks are still being “escorted towards Burkina Faso” by members of the rebel militia, who charge the drivers. Not only is this illegal, inefficient and sapping the government of Cote d’Ivoire of needed tax revenue, but funds received through extortion are increasingly hard to track. The 2007 Global Witness report claimed the rebels used some of the cocoa and diamond money to purchase weapons.

From Rapaport News at

A Global Witness mission to the country in February found that despite a 2007 agreement between the rebel held north and government controlled south to work toward peace, the north was still collecting taxes on diamonds and cocoa and keeping the revenue. Diamonds leaving the country from the rebel-held north have already been cited as the last remaining conflict diamonds by the NGO, and the World Diamond Council and United Nations.

Global Witness called upon the government and the north's New Force rebels to end “this extortion” and abolish the taxation.

“The system of parallel and illegitimate taxes only helps fuel the corruption,” said Patrick Alley, director of Global Witness. “This is an economic war that’s delaying the reunification of the country.”

Global Witness campaigner Maria Lopez said diamond diggers who sell their diamonds are being taxed 8 percent by the rebels, who were giving them permission to sell the stones. It was not clear where the stones were being taken next.

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