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Diamonds And Dust: 23 – Diamond Smugglers

Malcolm Bertoni tells of the come-uppance of a diamond detective, and a failed smuggling plan.

To read more of Malcolm’s vivid tales of working in a huge diamond mine in Namibia please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/diamonds_and_dust/

To obtain a copy of his book visit http://www.equilibriumbooks.com/diamonds.htm

The Diamond Smuggler 1

There was a particularly nasty DD specimen called R_. He was a short skinny guy with a waxy complexion and beady, shifty eyes that would never look at you directly. He always tried to get the Affenrucken guys and seemed to take a perverse pleasure in hounding us as much as he could.

He was always trying to set up new operators, pretending to want to buy diamonds. We warned all new operators as soon as they arrived to give this guy a wide berth as he was bad news.

Perhaps he had an inferiority complex due to his shortness. I don’t know.

I can picture his children asking him: “And what do you do, daddy?”

“Well I try to put as many guys as possible from Affenrucken into jail, son.”

Or going for a job. I can see his CV now.

Skills: Annoying people.

Career highlights: Getting the entire Affenrucken single quarters locked away forever.

What an arsehole.

Anyway. A guy who worked on mining and who we saw quite regularly at No 1 plant, but wasn’t actually staying at Affenrucken, overheard our friend R_ talking. It seemed that R_ was looking forward to going on four weeks leave down to Cape Town on Monday the following week and that he would be flying down to meet his family there, who had driven down earlier.

This guy didn’t pay much attention to the conversation and that afternoon told the Affenrucken mob that R_ would be away for four weeks from next week and that everyone could all relax a little.

Not much was thought about this until someone said,
“Wouldn’t it be great if we could set up this guy?”

“What do you mean?” someone asked.

“Well I’m thinking as I sit here that we could contact Cape Town airport and tip them off that there is a potential IDB person flying down to Cape Town to do some illegal diamond deal. Then when R_ lands he gets nabbed by the cops.”

In those days there was only one flight from Alexander Bay down to Cape Town each day. So it would be easy to send a tip-off.

Everyone thought about it for a while, and the more they thought about it, the better it sounded. In fact it sounded bloody brilliant.

So how were they going to contact the airport?
Finally a guy was elected (who shall remain nameless) to do the actual phoning. We’ll name him “X.”

Now in those days the phones were pretty archaic, and there was no sophisticated means of tracing calls. As well, CDM only had phones in town and the radio phones at Affenrucken hardly ever worked. So X would go to town on the Monday morning and contact the airport. The plane landed after lunch, so if the tip was taken seriously, then it would give the authorities plenty of time to have a welcoming committee.

So Monday rolls around and X goes into town and phones the airport people at Cape Town and gives them the anonymous tip about this guy R_ who is arriving on the flight from Alexander Bay and that he could be smuggling diamonds. That afternoon he sees everyone and he says that it’s done.

Everyone waits on tenterhooks, but hears nothing on that Monday or on the Tuesday.

On Wednesday there are garbled bits of information about this DD who was arrested at Cape Town airport and held in custody for the day.

Sounds like the bastard had been nailed. Everyone is pleased, to say the least.

The full story eventually comes out and although I can’t substantiate the details, goes something like this:
R_ arrives at the airport in Cape Town and strolls through to collect his baggage when suddenly about a million cops descend on him. It seems that the cops got the impression that he might be armed so they themselves come armed to the teeth.

What the hell did X tell the airport authorities? I could imagine the airport teeming with cops armed with sub-machine guns.

They take R_ to an interview room and start grilling him. Evidently the guy is terrified and hasn’t a clue what the hell is going on. They strip search him, rip his bag apart and virtually destroy all his clothes, which end up in a shredded pile in one corner of the room.

No diamonds. So they think he has swallowed them and want to give him a laxative to get them out of him.

Once R_ has gotten over his abject terror and he is able to find his voice again, he explains to the police that he is a Diamond Detective working for CDM and shows them his CDM ID. They are sceptical at first but finally they decide to check his story, and so they phone CDM.

Eventually the mess is sorted out, but not until R_ had spent about five or six hours in the airport interview room. During all this his family is waiting and wondering what the hell is going on.

We can all picture R_ in his underpants surrounded by 50 burly cops. Now he knew what it was like to be on the receiving end. Everyone felt damn good about it. Revenge is sweet.

CDM must have tried hard to find out who had phoned the fake tip-off to the airport, but no-one was telling. I was surprised that the police weren’t called in, as we were expecting that they would come out and chat to us, but nothing ever eventuated. Perhaps secretly the company was pleased.

When R_ came back on-site, we all asked him how his holiday was and how was the airport accommodation. He was furious and could have easily killed the lot of us. He must have guessed that the guys at Affenrucken were behind it all but couldn’t prove a damn thing.

The experience really seemed to affect him, and he was never the same after that, especially with everyone having a good chuckle at his expense. He quietly disappeared a few months later, transferred to another mine I believe, but we never knew where he went.

The Diamond Smuggler 2

In the late 70s a light aircraft landed on the beach at Chameis Bay, north of Affenrucken. Evidently a former DD that had been sacked by CDM had hidden a bag of diamonds in the sand and arranged with a pilot of a light plane to pick them up.

So the two of them flew in and timed it so that they landed on the beach at low tide. The plane landed OK and they went off to retrieve the diamonds, which they found easily enough, and then went back to the plane.

But by then the tide had started coming in and the sand was getting soft and mushy and when they tried to take off again, the plane got bogged. So there they stayed and eventually they were discovered and arrested by the DD’s former colleagues.

So close and yet so far. But it was a good idea and they almost got away with it. The story made headlines in the newspapers at the time.


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