Celebrities flaunting engagement rings, sporting diamond grills and singing praises about the jewel support the notion that “diamonds are forever.” And while Shirley Bassey might have “no fear that they might desert [her],” for many of us they can mean trouble.
Take, for example, an unnamed 25-year-old man at O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa. According to the BBC, the man — reportedly Lebanese — was waiting to board a flight to Dubai when authorities acting on a tip subjected him to a search. The Hawks, South Africa’s elite police unit, arrested him after a body scan revealed his stomach contained 220 gemstones.
“At this stage it would be unwise for us to speculate about what exactly he had done,” Hawk spokesperson Paul Ramaloko told the Daily Mail. “We do not know whether he had swallowed the diamonds before he came to the airport or during arrest.”
Reuters reported the alleged smuggler expelled the $2.3 million worth of ice he ingested with the help of laxatives and appeared in court on Thursday. South African authorities believe the individual may belong to a smuggling ring. In March, a 27-year-old Lebanese man attempted to leave the country with similarly concealed gems, but police arrested him, the Daily Mail reported.
South Africa is one of the biggest diamond producers in the world, and Johannesburg is one of the planet’s main diamond cutting and trading centers. The diamond industry there dates back to the 1870s, following a diamond rush sparked by the discovery of the 83.5-carat Star of Africa diamond in 1869 and has since expanded to the continent’s other southern countries, including Namibia, according to the World Diamond Council.
But where there’s diamonds, there’s been crime. The airport arrest comes just days after an AFP report alleging that since 2008, military officials and government ministers in Zimbabwe have illegally exported about $2 billion worth of the precious stones from mines in the eastern part of the country.
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