A man looks at a diamond worth around 65,000 Euros at Blooming Star, Rough and Polished Diamonds in Antwerp, Belgium, 17 March 2017. The city of Antwerp celebrated the 570th anniversary of diamond sector of Antwerp. The Diamond sector in Antwerp is the world biggest diamonds center. EPA/STEPHANIE LECOCQ


New European sanctions could take aim at Russian luxury goods


The EU is devising new sanctions against Russia that are expected to close existing loopholes. As well as Russia’s nuclear sector, the country’s luxury exports could also be hit.

More than a year since the start of the war, and after a lot of pushback from the sector, particularly in Belgium, it looks like Russian diamonds might finally make their way onto the sanctions list.

This has been resisted until now because an import ban in Europe could easily be circumvented by third parties. Any ban would disproportionally damage the Antwerp market in Belgium, one of the biggest diamond trading hubs in the world, without necessarily having any impact on Russian exports.

Belgium always demanded an international solution to this problem based on proof of origin, and it looks like this is under study. The G7 is working on a framework – the UN is considered unsuited as Russia has veto power – and Belgium is preparing an import ban.

In a first step, the Belgian Parliament unanimously approved a resolution on April 26 asking for such a ban. This means the country probably will not stand in the way of a European-wide version.

About 85 per cent of all rough diamonds in the world pass through Antwerp, and 40 per cent of all industrial diamonds, many from Russia. Daily, 220 million US dollars’ worth of diamonds are traded, adding up to 47 billion US dollars annually.

There is another “luxury problem”: relatives and friends of high-ranking Russian officials have been able to avoid sanctions. A striking example is Svetlana Maniovich, wife of Timur Ivanov, the Russian deputy minister of defence.

His family has managed to amass huge wealth, illicitly, according to the Russian Anti-Corruption Foundation, the organisation of the famed opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Foundation supporters demonstrated on April 23 at Maniovich’s Paris residence in the hope of getting her put on the sanctions list. She is officially separated from her husband, though few believe this to be genuine, and lives a life of opulence and wealth in Europe.