Sumbula: The Diamond Digger and CEO of Endiama

Since the end of the war in Angola, the acts of institutional violence that have caused the most deaths and human rights abuses have been those focused on combating illegal mining activities in the diamond-bearing region of the Lundas, in the northeast of Angola. Official statements justify such actions as necessary to prevent the plunder of these national resources for the good of the people.

Last January the minister of Geology and Mines, Francisco Queiroz, stated to the press that “illegal diamond mining in the country has reached worrisome proportions” and that “combating illegal diamond mining, both with regard to production and trading, is paramount […]”.

Meanwhile, there has been no mention by the Government or the state media on the involvement of government officials in illegal mining activities. On the contrary, official institutions have consistently pointed the finger solely at the artisanal miners, known as garimpeiros, who dig diamonds by hand from river courses.

To break this silence, Maka Angola makes public yet another case of corruption and abuse of power: the involvement of António Carlos Sumbula, the CEO of the national diamond company Endiama, in self-dealing and business with garimpeiros for his personal enrichment.

Endiama is the national concession-holder for diamonds, and it holds exclusive mining rights for prospecting, mining and trading of the precious stones in Angola. The Mining Code requires all mining companies to invest in joint ventures with the state concession-holder: this applies to all minerals, not only to diamonds. The state, by law, must hold interests of no less than 10 percent in the partnership.

On August 28, 2006, António Carlos Sumbula set up the private company Mi Diamond Ltd., to trade in and mine diamonds and other minerals, as well as “construction and public works, agriculture, fishing, hotel and tourism industry and real estate.”

Mr. Sumbula is the majority shareholder, with 99 per cent of the company’s stock, while Miguel António Chambole subscribes a symbolic one percent of the capital.

The presidential appointment of Mr. Sumbula to the position of CEO of Endiama in 2009 paved the way for Mi Diamond to roll out buying posts in the Lundas, to deal directly with garimpeiros.

To this effect, Mi Diamond entered into a joint-venture with Sodiam, a company of which 99 per cent is owned by Endiama. The Angolan Institute for State Enterprises (IAPE) owns the remaining one per cent of Sodiam. Therefore, Sodiam is a state-owned company whose board of directors is appointed by the President of the Republic.

The partnership between Sodiam and Mi Diamond is illegal. António Carlos Sumbula contravenes the Law on Public Probity, which forbids public servants from doing private business with the state for personal gain. Thus Mr. Sumbula must not be in a public-private joint venture with Endiama, in which he holds the position of CEO, or with any other state company. To all intents and purposes, Sodiam is a subsidiary of Endiama.

Speaking to Angolan National Radio (RNA) on April 1 this year, the national director of Mines, Miguel Paulino, emphasised the exclusive rights held by Sodiam for the sale of diamonds. “Diamonds are sold exclusively by Sodiam, which is the sole trading channel [in the country]. Obviously, it enters into partnerships, and it is in the realm of these partnerships that other players operate [in the trading of diamonds], though they are always associated with Sodiam.”

Mi Diamond has already established at least 10 buying posts in Cafunfo, the main trading town for garimpeiros in Lunda-Norte province. These buying posts, known as contuários [comptoirs], are headed by Lebanese, one Belgian , one French and one Brazilian. The driving force behind the establishment of Sumbula’s business network with the garimpeiros was the Lebanese citizen Boss Mouien, who went on to become the leading purchaser of diamonds from informal mining in the Cuango municipality. Sumbula’s company also has buying posts in the main town of Cuango, in Xamiquelengue and in Muxinda, other areas with high levels of informal mining.

The method for buying diamonds from informal mining is simple. The miner sells the diamonds to Mi Diamond with absolutely no record of the transaction and at a rate set by the cartel. These rates are agreed between the various buying posts, to the disadvantage of the garimpeiros, and they bear no relation to the true value of the diamonds traded.

“If a miner hands over a valuable diamond to be weighed, the buyer from Mi Diamond weighs the diamond, promptly locks it in a safe, and then negotiates its price with the seller. If the miner does not accept the price, then the buyer confiscates the stone. Miners have no rights whatsoever,” explains Salvador Fragoso, a local activist.

In turn, the Diamond Security Authority (Corpo de Segurança de Diamantes), which issues licences to buyers from Sodiam and Mi Diamond, does not supervise the activities of the latter. There is also the direct involvement of buyers, such as the Belgian citizen Cixten, as he is known locally, in sponsoring teams of garimpeiros to pan for alluvial diamonds in the riverbeds. This practice is rife in the areas of Kavuba and Ngana Canga.

The absence of a paper trail facilitates the siphoning of large and valuable stones to the Democratic Republic of Congo, by human couriers, and the incalculable loss of revenue to the State company, Sodiam, which should be responsible for all trade in diamonds on the external market. This practice violates the Kimberley Process Certification System, which requires the registration of all diamond transactions from their very source, including the primary sale after extraction. The Kimberley System is a certification process that aims to stop blood diamonds from entering the international market.

The involvement of buyers in the illegal sponsorship of groups of informal miners also violates the Mining Code, which prohibits the acquisition of diamonds produced by illegal miners. However, Mi Diamond goes on buying from this source since there is only a symbolic handful of licensed miners, and still no designated areas for informal mining.

Besides all of these illegalities, there is also the crime of corruption and violation of the Law on Public Probity, since Sumbula simultaneously occupies the public office of CEO of Endiama and his private post of managing partner of Mi Diamond, a position he holds to this day.

The Law of Public Probity also prohibits public managers from entering into business with state bodies, for personal gain, within the exercise of their public duties.

So far, neither the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation (Direcção Nacional de Investigação Criminal, DNIC), nor the Office of the Attorney General, has deigned to further investigate these public crimes against the State.

Sumbula benefits from the highest protection of the President of the Republic and the Minister of State and head of the Intelligence Bureau in the Angolan presidency, General Manuel Hélder Vieira Dias,  “Kopelipa”, for whom his legal transgressions are fully justifiable and acceptable.

In 2000, President José Eduardo dos Santos personally authorised the establishment of Ascorp, a company in which his daughter Isabel dos Santos was a 25 percent shareholder, primarily as an exclusive cartel for the purchase of diamonds from garimpo. Endiama holds a 50 percent share of the business, while Lev Leviev and the Israeli citizen Sylvian Goldberg own the other half. In 2004, Isabel dos Santos, concerned with her image, transferred her shares to her mother, Tatiana Kukanova Cergueevna Ragan.

General Kopelipa is also personally involved in the diamond trade, as a shareholder of Lumanhe, a company owned exclusively by generals, which in turn, is in partnership with Endiama on various diamond-mining projects in the Lundas. The partners and shareholders of Sociedade Mineira do Cuango, of which Lumanhe is a 21 per cent shareholder, are guilty of gross violations of human rights against informal miners and members of local communities in Cuango, including murder, torture and coercion in the expropriation of arable land for the purpose of mining.

In light of the practice of institutional corruption which is the hallmark of the rule of President José Eduardo dos Santos, those who earn his protection or serve his interests are rewarded with the seal of impunity.

Ironically, the biggest garimpeiros in Angola are those in power.