Royal gift or ‘stolen’ gem? Calls for UK to return 500 carat Great Star of Africa diamond to Botswana
The UK government has been accused of trying to hide the fact it sold a priceless ancient gemstone known as the Great Star of Africa over to the Russian government, and its whereabouts are now a mystery.
A diamond expert from the African Diamond Centre at the London School of Economics said today that the sale of the stone had taken place more than 40 years ago and it was now being held in Russia.
He said it must be returned to Botswana, home to the stone since the 1970s.
The expert added: ‘We’d really like the stone returned because Botswana is the last unaltered and uncontaminated source of the stone. It was mined by Botswana’s first king, who had the original and the stone which is now held by the crown.
‘It’s not sold as a’stolen’ jewel but as a royal gift which was actually a gift to the king, so the crown was going to give it to him.
‘He gave the stone to the king and it was subsequently given to his successor a long time later.
‘For more than 40 years, the stone was held by the crown in a safe in London and we don’t know where that is and the crown can’t open it because of tax laws.’
The expert, who did not wish to be named, said he thought the UK government sold the stone to Russia in the 1990s in the hope it would be used in a meteorite but was disappointed when it was used to make a diamond.
He added: ‘The crown is adamant the stone was not sold to the Russians.
‘It was a gift from a grateful king and to allow it to be used in the production of a diamond is a breach of the law which the UK government needs to sort out.’
‘It’s not our intention to sell it. It was a Royal gift and it is currently in the possession of the