In reaction to media reports regarding access to bank accounts, the Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC) said it is “indisputable that Belgian banks discriminate against the entire Antwerp diamond industry“.
“Based on testimonials, companies’ correspondence with banks and information banks themselves have published, the AWDC can prove that banks are systematically refusing customers with any connection to the diamond industry, both for personal and professional banking affairs, before they even submit a detailed request.”
Legislation And Industry Initiatives
“Banks often refer to the so-called ‘risk factor’ involved to justify their refusal. Claiming the industry is not sufficiently aware of this problem makes no sense. First of all, the diamond trade in our country is controlled strictly by a series of legal obligations. By law, only officially registered diamond companies are allowed to engage in trade, and very stringent anti-money laundering (AML) legislation is applied. Moreover, all international financial transactions are closely monitored, and within the Diamond Office, all exports and imports are 100 percent verified.”
“The Antwerp diamond industry has made significant efforts in recent years to set up additional initiatives on top of this legal framework. Since 2013, it has organized no less than 23 AML and compliance seminars, attended by 544 companies, and the number of reports issued at the CFI (Belgian Financial Intelligence Processing Unit) went from one in 2013 to 35 last year, thanks to the creation of a dedicated SPOC (Single Point of Clearance ) by the AWDC. A dedicated AML and compliance helpdesk was set up in 2013, and handled over 631 cases last year. AWDC also partnered with the Compliance Catalyst database from Bureau Van Dijk. This database contains the information of 250 million clients worldwide, and is made available to Antwerp diamond companies free of charge, enabling them to perform the legally obliged identity checks on their clients efficiently. ”