Gothamist friend and occasional Opinionist Andrew Bast has recently pulled off a nice relaunch of his site, The New York Inquirer ("We don't break the news; we put it back together") and in the process put back together some interesting stuff worth checking out. This week, for instance, has focused pretty much exclusively on the diamond trade including a five-part series on the darker side of 47th Street, one of the many hearts of the diamond trade.
Diamond trading is an old and well-oiled machine which has had its fingers in nasty situations for quite some time (DeBeers, anyone?). The Government Accountability Office described the problem with those shiny rocks best when it reported while writing about terrorist financing that “Diamonds can be used in lieu of currency in arms deals, money laundering and other crimes. Diamonds are also easily smuggled because they have high value and low weight and are untraceable and odorless.” You'd think that would have made a the trade more closely watched by authorities, but that doesn't seem to be the case.
According to one 47th Street store owner who wouldn’t speak on the record as he said this was a subject for which he could be “crucified,” fencing is a “big time” problem. He said that people are working with the authorities to combat illegal operations in the Diamond District, but asked, “Where’s the FBI?” and said that they needed major sting operations to weed out the handful of bad businessmen who are ruining it for the rest of the industry.
Beyond just preaching of the inherent dangers of the diamond and jewelry industries, the Inquirer also digs up some informative stories on how exactly diamond and gold can launder money, how fences on 47th Street do their business and more. We'll never look at that thoroughfare the same way again.
Detail from Diamond Heist by scottwills on flickr.