Peace diamond: Precious stone fetches $6.5m in NY

Sierra Leone's 'peace diamond' auctioned for $6.5m in US

The government's stake in the diamond sale will be used to fund development projects nationwide.

The government of the West African country of Sierra Leone has auctioned off a rough "peace diamond" for US$6.5 million (NT$195 million), with half the proceeds to benefit the local community, reports said. "Laurence Graff paid more money because he believes this diamond is a special diamond because it's going to help the poorest people in the world", Martin Rapaport said in the release.

"Peace diamond" plays on the term "blood diamond", which were diamonds rebel groups sold during Sierra Leone's brutal civil war in the 1990s to buy arms and ammunition.

The diamond is said to be the 14th-largest ever discovered, according to the Rapaport Group, which auctioned the stone in NY on behalf of Sierra Leone's government. The government said it would use the $3.9 million in tax revenue from the sale to fund clean water, electricity, schools, health centres and roads.

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The United Nations lifted a ban on diamond exports from Sierra Leone in 2003, though the $113 million sector is plagued by smuggling.

A previous attempt to sell it in May did not go through as the Sierra Leone government rejected the highest bid of $7.8 million at an auction in the capital Freetown.

"It will encourage all the diggers back home", said Chief Paul Ngaba Saquee, head of Sierra Leone's eastern Kono district where the diamond was found.

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