Cape Town 200611 A former banker Terry Crawford Brown , spent his retirement funds trying to get theArms Deal investigated. Picture : neil baynes Reporter : Zara Nicole

Cape Town - Diamonds would forever be tainted with the impurities of humankind, activist and author Terry Crawford-Browne said on Thursday.

“Diamonds are the vehicle of choice for money laundering... organised crime finds diamonds far more useful than drugs,” he said.

“There are rather nasty characters (in the diamond industry) that are even more ruthless than (diamond company) De Beers and the Oppenheimers.”

Crawford-Browne was addressing the Cape Town Press Club following the release of his book, “Eye on the Diamonds”.

He said it was quite amazing how such a shiny stone, a symbol of both love and war, had caused so much grief and greed.

Lord Randolph Churchill, who was former United Kingdom prime minister Winston Churchill's father, summarised it quite aptly upon visiting the Big Hole in Kimberley in 1981.

He looked at the hole and exclaimed: “All this for the vanity of women”, upon which a woman nearby replied: “And the depravity of men”.

“It's the depravity which takes my interest,” Crawford-Browne told the crowd.

He said fictional action hero James Bond described diamonds even more accurately, when he said they were an essential commodity for the business of wars.

It was also South Africa's “foundation stone”, upon which its economy and apartheid system were founded.

Crawford-Browne said De Beers, once the king of the international diamond market, was now a mere bit-player.

Discoveries in Angola, Botswana, Australia, Russia, Canada and Zimbabwe, for example, had changed the company's “monopoly” on the industry.

He said Israel was dominating the industry, using industrial diamonds for new generation armaments dependent on high-energy laser technology.

Crawford-Browne's latest book takes its name from British defence company BAE's front company Red Diamond Trading Company, which he claimed paid some of the bribes for South Africa's arms deal to ANC “black diamonds”.

Black diamonds refer to the emerging black middle class. - Sapa