Billion dollar diamond heist whistle-blower fired

• BY TRACY TAFIRENYIKA

A whistle-blower who brought to light an alleged billion-dollar diamond heist at Debmarine says he is avictim of the country’s failed whistleblower act that failed to protect him from getting fired from Debmarine where he worked as a senior security officer.

However, the diamond company said he was fired due to gross violation of company procedures which are completely unrelated to the missing diamond case.

Laurentius Amakali reportedly laid it bare when he wrote a letter to the Minister of Mines and Energy, Tom Alweendo, in 2018, in which he detailed how diamond gem stones with an estimate of up to N$ 1 billion went missing from The Mv Grand Banks Vessel.

He was subsequently fired from the company in 2020.

According to Amakali, the elaborate diamond heist involved about a thousand diamond gem stones which were trapped in a suspicious manner in one of the canning pipes where “a rubber sock was inserted in the cone to divert some diamonds” and hold them up in the pipe preventing them from being discovered and canned for transportation.

“They can tell you all they want butI know I was fired because I brought this matter out. The country failed to protect me even though we have a Whistleblower Protection Act. The alleged suspects have never appeared in court for prosecution, neither have they been charged nor discharged for this case even though they are well known by the company,” he said.

The Whistleblower Protected Disclosures Act of 2000 was developed specifically to protect employees who expose workplace malfeasance. Once a whistleblower protected by the act comes forward, any professional consequences or retaliation they experience are considered an offence.

When questioned if indeed Amakali was fired because he exposed the missing diamond scheme, Debmarine Namibia’s communication manager, Stella Ipinge told Confidente the missing Diamonds matter remains under investigation by the relevant authorities, including the Ministry of Mines and Energy and the Protected Resource Unit who were duly informed at the time, adding that technology and process improvements have since been made to mitigate against such incidents.

“We note your various questions regarding an incident that occurred on one of our vessels,
the Mv Grand Banks. Amakali was dismissed from the employment of Debmarine Namibia in October 2020, due to gross violation of company procedures, completely unrelated to the incident he refers to. His dismissal remains the subject of arbitration by the Labour Commissioner. Amakali is thus a disgruntled former employee, who clearly seeks to bring the name of Debmarine Namibia into disrepute. We regard this disgruntled employee’s insinuation as highly defamatory. We reserve all our rights in this regard.

“In relation to the incident, he refers to in February 2018. Indeed a blockage occurred on the Mv Grand Banks vessel inside a highly secured area. Keeping in mind that this area, termed the diamond recovery process is located in a highly secured and monitored environment.
The diamond recovery process is an automated process, hands- free and with no direct employee contact. The circumstances of the blockage therefore raised suspicions, regarding possible deliberate attempts to cause the blockage, thereby exposing diamond concentrate,” Ipinge added that since then they have not experienced a similar type of incident.

In a letter seen by Confidente from Minister Alweendo to Amakali, the minister noted that diamond theft was of great concern but he could not interfere with investigation as the matter was being handled by the country’s judicial system.