Diamond man nabbed

2009-10-26 00:00

A WELL-KNOWN Pietermaritzburg businessman, the son of a former Msunduzi councillor, who was arrested for the illegal possession of diamonds worth more than an estimated R1 million at the weekend, is in hospital under police guard.

He is also said to have had a gram of cocaine. Although his name is known to The Witness, he cannot be named until he appears in court.

Police said yesterday the arrest followed weeks of intensive investigations.

Working on a tip-off, police attached to the Pietermaritzburg crime intelligence unit and Mountain Rise project team swooped on the man during the early hours of Saturday morning as he sat in his car at the corner of Langalibalele (Longmarket) and Thomas streets.

Police spokeswoman Inspector Joey Jeevan said that during the operation the 29-year-old man was found in possession of cut and uncut diamonds believed to be worth more than R1 million.

“He was also found with one gram of cocaine in his possession.”

According to an attorney who said he is awaiting formal instruction from the family, the man will appear in court either today or tomorrow.

He has been charged with the possession of uncut diamonds and possession of cocaine.

The cocaine has a street value of between R300 and R500, according to police.

The family of the businessman is involved in property management in the city and has other business interests.

Police said they were tipped off that the suspect was moving the diamonds on Friday night just after midnight, after following him for three weeks.

When the police went looking for him, they found him in his car allegedly waiting for another man with whom he was set to drive to the city’s northern suburbs.

Police said he was taking the diamonds to show them to prospective buyers who would then make offers.

A policeman who spoke to The Witness said it is almost certain that the diamonds are “blood diamonds” — illegally mined stones used to fund conflict in Africa — smuggled into the country. He said buyers have their own testers to verify the authenticity of the stones. “They know what they are doing.”

When apprehended, the suspect was very casually dressed, wearing a pair of tracksuit pants, a T-shirt and a pair of slippers. He carried some of the diamonds in a black plastic DVD case and the others in plastic packets.

The suspect is believed to have offered no resistance when police approached him and willingly allowed the police to search him.

He allegedly said he was selling the diamonds for someone else. Police said the man is not in the jewellery business. He allegedly produced certificates for some of the diamonds, but these have yet to be verified by experts.

It is believed that his parents have gone on a religious pilgrimage overseas.

The man has been hospitalised at Midlands Medical Centre “for treatment”, the nature of which is not known.

Police await the arrival of experts from Kimberley who will verify the authenticity of the diamonds. The diamonds have been sealed in exhibit bags and have been secured in a safe place. Police declined to divulge their location.

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