Zimbabwe's finance minister demands diamond companies pay up

The finance minister in Zimbabwe wants the government to order diamond mining companies to pay millions of dollars into the country's coffers, reports the Associated Press.

Tendai Biti said he will ask President Robert Mugabe to implement the measure in order to pay at least $217 million for a constitutional referendum in March and elections in July.

Biti said total diamond sales in 2012 were $800 million with only $45 million coming to the government so far in taxes, even though companies owed more.

"I will be appealing to both the President and Prime Minister to make these companies pay. We are beginning to lose our patience," said Biti to the AP. "It is irresponsible and unpatriotic and a breach of our laws."

He also said it's unacceptable for the country to struggle to fund voting processes when so much money is being made.

Biti and his former opposition party have criticized Zimbabwean diamond mining by saying Mugabe's loyalist police and military have gone into partnership with secretive Chinese companies to exploit the resource.

Partnership Africa Canada claimed last year Mugabe's supporters had allegedly stolen $2 billion worth of gemstones.

The Marange diamond fields in the eastern region of the country, which have been mined for the last six years,  are one of the world's biggest diamond deposits. The country reportedly could produce between 110 million to 160 million carats annually.

The sector has also been embroiled in allegations of human rights abuses and illegal money laundering.

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