South Korean diplomat suspended in diamond mine investment scandal


SEOUL — South Korea’s foreign ministry has temporarily suspended a senior official over a suspected share-rigging case linked to a diamond mine in Cameroon, a spokesman said Wednesday. Kim Eun-Seok, in charge of energy and resources development, was suspended last week as he was being questioned by audit authorities about the case. “In connection with the Cameroon diamond mining case, the ministry separated Ambassador Kim from his work last week,” the spokesman told AFP. The measure was taken in consideration of the “seriousness of the case” and that “Kim was in a situation where it is inappropriate for him to carry out his duties because of the probe,” he said. “Any legal disciplinary measure against Ambassador Kim would depend on the outcome of the inspection by the Board of Audit and Inspection.” The board is expected to complete its investigation this month. It has said its probe would focus on a foreign ministry statement in December 2010 announcing that Cameroon had authorized the Korean company CNK International to develop a large diamond mine in the African country. The statement said the volume of diamonds in the mine near the southeastern town of Yakadouma was estimated at 420 million carats, a whopping 2.5 times the global diamond production in 2007. The announcement sent shares of the developer rising dramatically. But legislator Jeong Tae-Keun told a parliamentary committee last September that the estimated volume of the diamonds had been greatly exaggerated.

BAI has said it was investigating whether the foreign ministry statement was issued in order to influence the share price and whether the potential value of the mine was exaggerated intentionally. A CNK spokesman has denied that the company manipulated share prices. Kim has proclaimed his innocence of any wrongdoing in media interviews.