A female smuggler arrived at the Toronto International Airport Feb. 3, and was arrested on charges of smuggling diamonds into the country. The RCMP disclosed that more than 10,000 diamonds were found inside the body of 66-year-old Helena Freida Bodner, who arrived on a flight from Trinidad, but cannot confirm how the diamonds got into her body.
Bodner has been in custody for the last two weeks as the investigation continues. She appeared in court Feb. 21. She has since been remanded to appear again in March for smuggling diamonds into the country.
Investigators say it is not uncommon for carriers, or “mules” as they are called, to conceal contraband materials, such as drugs in body cavities. One method involves ingestion of condoms filled with materials.
Experts suggest that the 1,500 carats of diamonds, valued at close to $400,000, probably originated from nearby mining countries, such as Venezuela, Guyana or Brazil, as Trinidad has no diamond mines. They also suspect that the massive quantity of unpolished stones were destined for another country, for refining and resale on the black market.
The investigation may be extensive, as the proceeds from the sale of illicit diamonds, known as “conflict diamonds,” have been used to fund civil wars and terrorist activities. Amnesty International, the worldwide NGO devoted to fighting injustices and championing human rights, warns that profits generated from the trading conflict diamonds is valued in the billions, and they have been used to buy arms in African countries, where civil wars have destroyed millions of lives.
Bodner has only been identified as a foreign national, and her nationality has not yet been disclosed. She has been charged with several offenses that include indictments under the Import and Export of Rough Diamonds Act.
The diamonds, valued $266 per carat, are deemed to be of high quality, according to diamond expert Dorothée Gizenga.Venezuela is suspected as being one of the countries where the diamonds may have originated. About five years ago, the country discontinued participation in the Kimberley Process, an international certification initiative program that was developed to stem the flow of illegal rough diamonds. The international NGO known as Global Witness, which also dedicates itself to fighting injustices and human rights abuses, has alleged that millions of dollars’ worth of gems are smuggled from Venezuela to nearby Guyana or Brazil.
Ms. Gizenga notes that, although Canada is known as a diamond miner, there are few independent cutters. Canadian stones are usually sent to India, Antwerp or Dubai for cutting and refining. Once the 10,200 rough uncut stones are smuggled into North America, they can be easily delivered to cutters in several U.S. cities such as California, New York or Miami, which are recognized for diamond trading. She also adds that the smuggling scheme would usually involve an established buyer, as a 66-year-old female smuggler is highly unlikely to be acting independently when transporting such a large quantity of rough diamonds.
A recently released report from the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force has identified Canada as one of the countries used for the money laundering of conflict diamonds. As Ms. Gizenga explains, once the stones are cut and polished, it is impossible to determine the country of origin.
Recent studies show that more females have become involved with smuggling in the last few years. The reasons may be not only for monetary gain, but also for the prestige that can be gained in a field that is usually male-dominated. Officials have not disclosed exactly how the 66-year-old Bodner the smuggler was caught with 10,000 diamonds inside her body.
By Dale Davidson