March 16 (UPI) — Sierra Leonean President Ernest Bai Koroma on Thursday thanked a pastor for not smuggling a 709-carat diamond he found and instead donating it over to the government.
The diamond, one of the 20 largest diamonds ever found and the largest discovered in Sierra Leone since 1972, was presented to Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma by Pastor Emmanuel Momoh. Anadolu Agency estimated the diamond’s value to be $5 million.
In a ceremony Wednesday, Koroma thanked the chief of Kono district, where the uncut gem was found, for “not smuggling the diamond out of the country.” It was placed it in a vault in the central bank in the capital, Freetown.
Mines and Mineral Resources Minister Minkailu Mansaray called the diamond a gift to the country, adding proceeds from its sale would be used for the good of the people.
Kono was at the center of the “blood diamond” trade that financed Sierra Leone’s brutal civil war between 1991 and 2002.
Pastor Momoh was engaged in artisanal, or freelance, diamond hunting in river sediment when he made the find, the BBC reported. The African country has a large diamond industry and freelance diamond hunters are common.