Registered Gemstone dealers in Taita Taveta, Mombasa, and Nairobi are disdained by the invasion of unlicensed foreigners who are camped in Voi town and posing as tourists while buying gemstones. The number of Sri Lankans in Voi has doubled to about forty over a period of one year.
A Kenyan Gemstone dealer who did not want his name disclosed said that the foreigners in the cohort with some Kenyan traders who do not have the gemstone dealers’ permit collaborate to exploit the miners. The unlicensed Kenyan traders set up trading offices that accommodate these foreigners.
‘’They (the foreigners) purchase gemstones from the miners at a relatively very low price. It is now cheaper to purchase quality cut tsavorites in Sri Lanka than in Kenya. This web has morphed into a cartel and has choked us (registered gemstone dealers and cutters) of our precious minerals”, he said.
Another gemstone trader who did not want his name revealed, for fear of reappraisal, said that the local value addition industry is suffering heavily as they don’t get orders for cutting these gemstones as they used to some years back. “Sri Lankans are now buying at the source cutting off the gem brokers who used to earn a decent living from going between the miners and the market. They (gem brokers) are now idling and rendered jobless in Voi and other satellite towns as they have been pushed out of business by the foreigners”. He commented.
The gem wholesalers and cutters said nothing has changed and that this web is enjoying close protection from the police, some government officials and other county officials.
Early this year, The government of Kenya ed its first-ever value addition center in Taita Taveta to add value to gemstones before selling them abroad in raw form.
Taita Taveta is losing revenue through unscrupulous mineral dealers who sneak gemstones out of the countryMining and petroleum Cabinet Secretary – John Munyes.
In 2013, two Sri Lankans were arrested for allegedly mining without a license in Taita-Taveta. Five years later, in 2018, six Sri Lankans were arrested and deported for engaging in illegal gemstone trade in the Kenya.
They called upon the Cabinet Secretary of mining and petroleum and the Kenya Chamber of Commerce to safeguard the industry and crack down on all traders and foreigners operating illegally in the trade.
In Sri Lanka, the president issued a strict directive to government officials to “Keep foreign companies out of local gem mining industry” – Read here
On the September 27th a foreigner was found guilty of smuggling Tanzanite without an export permit.