HRD Antwerp is under investigation by a court in Belgium over allegations that it routinely upgraded diamonds, according to the De Tijd newspaper.
It says it obtained e-mails, internal procedures, slides, audit reports and filmed board meetings and other material revealing a long-standing practice, described by one former senior staff member as “a way to commit market fraud”.
It alleges that the lab, founded in 1973 and wholly-owned by the AWDC (Antwerp World Diamond Centre), routinely bumped up the color of GIA diamonds submitted for re-grading by up to two grades and clarity by one grade.
It also alleges the lab gave more diamonds an excellent cut grade, and ordered graders not to downgrade stones unless there had been an obvious mistake.
The newspaper claims the investigation by a Belgian judge began after the termination in October 2021 of HRD Antwerp’s partnership with Turkey-based Enstitu Ä°stanbul Bilim Akademisi Yonetim DaniÅŸmanliÄŸi, which ran HRD operations in Istanbul and Dubai.
It quotes Mike Davey, former director at HRD Istanbul, commenting on the upgrade protocol, which it says was introduced in in March 2020.
“That document is crazy, nuts. I can’t imagine how anyone could put something like that on paper,” it reports him as saying during an internal online meeting in July 2021.
“Let’s stop calling this a procedure. This protocol, which talks about automatic ‘double upgrades’, or practically automatic double upgrades, is not a procedure. It is a way to commit market fraud.”
In response, the paper quotes Ellen Joncheere, CEO of HRD Antwerp as saying: “No no no. This is not fraud. We have checked that legally.”
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