Spanish authorities arrested a man at Malaga Airport on suspicion of smuggling blood diamonds into Europe. Blood diamonds, mined through forced labor in conflict zones, fund brutal wars.

Police allege the detainee, a Spanish national, masterminded a scheme to launder and distribute these diamonds. Investigators believe his activities directly supported the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) during Sierra Leone’s civil war.

The investigation began in 2020 following a complaint by a former slave laborer from an RUF mine. Police traced the detainee to a company suspected of profiting from blood diamonds.

Throughout the 1990s, the detainee allegedly coordinated a network spanning several countries, including Liberia, overseeing the mining, trade, and export of diamonds.

Blood diamonds from Sierra Leone’s Kono and Boedu mines, controlled by RUF child soldiers, were funneled into the network. RUF soldiers delivered the stones directly to the detainee, who then laundered them as legally obtained diamonds in Liberia.

These “clean” diamonds were then sold, primarily to a Belgian company, for entry into the European market.

Acting on intelligence, Spanish police apprehended the man at Malaga Airport on July 2nd. He had been residing in Brazil since 2007.

Collaboration with Brazilian authorities proved crucial to the investigation’s success. A subsequent search of the detainee’s Costa del Sol property yielded documents and electronic devices for further investigation. On July 5th, a magistrate remanded him to prison.

Sierra Leone’s brutal civil war (1991-2002) claimed over 70,000 lives and displaced 2.6 million people. The Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) later found the trade in conflict diamonds, mined with forced labor, to be a key source of funding for the war. The UN declared such trade illegal.