(TriceEdneyWire.com) — U.S. businessman Michel Desaedeleer, whose dealings in ‘blood diamonds’ which were shown in the 2006 movie of the same name, starring Djimond Hounsou and Leonardo DiCaprio, was pulled him off a plane and arrested by police in Malaga, Spain, for alleged war crimes and enslavement in the African country of Sierra Leone.
Desaedeleer, 64, was flying to New York, where he lives, when police took him to custody in late August.
Police arrested Desaedeleer on August 31 after five former diamond-mine slaves filed a complaint against him in January 2011.
“This is the very first time that a businessman has been arrested for his alleged involvement in the international crimes of both pillaging blood diamonds and enslaving civilians,” reported Civitas Maxima, an independent legal representative of victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity, which is based in Geneva, Switzerland. The organization helped build a case against Desaedeleer, who also is a citizen of Belgian. Civitas Maxima called enslavement a crime against humanity and pillaging blood diamonds a war crime.
Desaedeleer allegedly collaborated with rebel leader Foday Sankoh who gave him a monopoly on all gold and diamond mining in the rebel-controlled areas of Sierra Leone. With his offshore company BECA, Desaedeleer forced enslaved civilians to mine for diamonds in Sierra Leone’s eastern district of Kono between 1999 and 2001. Later, he is alleged to have attempted to sell the territory back to Sierra Leone for $10 million.
The diamond trade, according to U.N. estimates, was valued at between $25 and $125 million each year, most of which was spent on weapons and war material. Blood diamonds were sold to finance an insurgency, an invading army’s war efforts or a warlord’s activity.
Civitas Maxima worked with the Center for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL) in Freetown, preparing the case against Desaedeleer, which took several years.
Ibrahim Tommy, executive director of CARL, said, “This is another significant step forward in our collective efforts at ensuring accountability for the crimes that occurred during the conflict in Sierra Leone. No one should be allowed to get away with participating in serious offenses such as enslaving people and forcing them to mine for diamonds.”
Desaedeleer’s name was mentioned in a 2000 United Nations report. He denied any wrongdoing, telling Newsweek magazine that year he had a legitimate contract for exclusive mining and development of diamonds in parts of Sierra Leone controlled by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and saying all his actions were above board.
“This is a landmark case, the first of its kind, and it will help to raise awareness of the pivotal role played by financial actors in the trade of mineral resources that fuel armed conflicts in Africa and elsewhere,” said Alain Werner, Civitas Maxima director.
More than 50,000 people died in the conflict. The diamonds were sent to former President Charles Taylor of Liberia, who used the proceeds to finance weapons purchases for the rebels.
Unregulated mining came up again this week when torrential rains over the past weekend submerged several bridges and highways, stranding thousands of traders. Significantly, the bridge linking the eastern Kenema district to the capital is out of service.
A local leader says many villages in the surrounding area may also have been submerged. Seventy houses have been washed away, according to Umaru Fofana, a local reporter.