CEO of Antwerp World Diamond Centre resigns amid Russian sanctions

The CEO of the Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC), Ari Epstein, resigned unexpectedly on Thursday, De Tijd reported. A short statement from the board of directors thanked him for his 14 years of work but did not provide a reason for his departure.

Epstein's exit adds to a string of departures, including that of the chair, David Gotlib, indicating a broader internal struggle, such as potential disagreements over Russian sanctions and the implementation of a new diamond tracing system.

The system, initiated by the Belgian government to enforce European sanctions without disabling the Antwerp diamond sector, aims to track diamond origins via blockchain technology, ensuring transparency and compliance.

Division in the sector

Antwerp's role in the initiative highlights its significance in the global diamond trade. However, opinions within the sector are split. Some have never accepted the sanctions against Russia and the mechanism that prime minister Alexander De Croo pioneered. There are concerns over the potential impact on Antwerp's dominance as a diamond hub, with fears of losing ground to competitors like Dubai and India.

Doubt from other companies and countries has also put pressure on Antwerp's diamond monopoly. De Beers, a major player, is facing scrutiny over pricing practices, while African countries have expressed reservations about Antwerp's control. Meanwhile, the US has expressed scepticism on alignment with the European system.

In December last year, Europe and the G7 countries decided to impose a ban on rough diamonds from Russia. Epstein developed a plan with the sector and the Belgian government that would strengthen Antwerp as a hub for rough diamonds. At the request of Belgium, a registration and tracing system was devised that would record the entire journey of a diamond, from the mine to the jewellery store, via blockchain.

#FlandersNewsService | Ari Epstein © BELGA PHOTO JAMES ARTHUR GEKIERE

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