Chapter 18. The Dangers of the Hunt.
.This final chapter is more personal - it tells much more about the difficulties I had to face and the problems I had to overcome in order to carry out this investigation.
This is how it starts... - and some hints of what else is in it.
I have told how the hunt of the diamond cartel began for me under the fat trunked boab tree at Oombulgurri. But helicopter borne police were by no means the only danger I had to face. Between the start of this adventure and the writing of this book lay 14 years. At first I thought, maybe two years, perhaps three. I had no idea how long and hard a hunt it would be.
I should have been warned when one of my first funders, an Australian state government body, as a condition of their investment in my film, insisted, that I insure my life naming it as the beneficiary. I thought then that they were being utterly paranoid.
I had never been on a hunt like this. My initial newspaper article in 1981 told how De Beers was seeking control over the Australian diamond discovery and ran at over two broadsheet pages length, was advertised on television and nationally syndicated. (Ref The Age. 22 August 1981) I did not want to see De Beers ensconced in Australia because it was at the heart of the apartheid economy of South Africa... . The then Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser, replied: 'I can see no advantage to Australia ... in having arrangements in which Australian diamond discoveries only serve to strengthen a South Africa monopoly'.
...But by now I had the television support needed to make De Beers take my project seriously. The ABC sent Jonathan Holmes to London. He met with Thames and Channel 4 and suggested I chose Thames as they had more money. He advised me to get myself ready. Once again my film seemed about to happen.
I was back in Australia when I heard by phone that Thames had decided they must have in advance the consent and support of De Beers! This was a surprise. Getting the advance permission of corporate 'targets' was not usual in investigative television. Jonathan Holmes of the ABC was as astonished. He told Thames that as it was my project they had to secure my approval for such an approach to De Beers but they went to De Beers regardless.
Perhaps under fire from Margaret Thatcher for the Gibraltar film, they were in no mood to take on another foe? I abandoned Thames and went back to Channel 4. Thames proceeded without me, failed to get De Beers support so cancelled their production. Meanwhile Channel 4 agreed to my proposal and said its initial funds would be in Australia in 2 weeks. My film was still alive.
But 3 weeks later a fax came from Channel 4 saying they could not now invest 'in the foreseeable future' in my film since someone else by a 'remarkable coincidence' had proposed to do another film on diamonds - and this with the blessing of De Beers. De Beers consent seemed to be deemed indispensable as the general perception was that De Beers ran the diamond world on such tight reins that they would be able to make any film impossible.
(but eventually I got together an alliance of the BBC with American TV station WGBH and the ABC in Australia - and the film was on its way...)
... We then went to Russia to talk to its cagey diamond people and then to London. From here we travelled to Israel. Here we met the Mazal U'Bracha editor, Chaim Even Zohar, ensconced behind Fort Knox like security in the twin diamond trading towers of Ramat Gan. He greeted me very affably; 'So you are the lady half the diamond trade wants to talk to and the other half wants to avoid?' I laughed this off but was rather perplexed. He smiled and told me he was talking all the time to De Beers in London. He then asked me: 'How did you get on in Moscow?' He succeeded in surprising me again. I had not mentioned to anyone that I had been to Moscow. He then said that our every movement had been monitored for 3 months, ever since we got Channel Four's support.
He smiled again and asked; 'Should we have been watching you from earlier?' He then kindly offered to help us film in Israel - 'If I can control the script on Israel'. This helped to bring about a dividing of ways between my consultant director and myself. I feared any such arrangement would affect our objectivity.
In Israel a major diamond merchant , a sightholder, found himself in trouble for helping us find accommodation in a Tel Aviv hotel . He received an letter from the cartel asking sharply why he was assisting us. This came just after he had proudly opened his monthly box of diamonds from the CSO in front of us, finding in it a magnificent gemstone. He displayed this to our cameras, as if it were a badge of merit. The syndicate's letter now made him fear he would find in his next box poor quality diamonds. He had us immediately write him a letter that showed he had not really helped us much at all.
... After India we went to the United States. Here Tiffany's, Winston's, most of the leading Fifth Avenue jewellers, refused to see me despite my asking in the name of the BBC. It was like a chess game. Every obstacle must have a countering tactic. William Goldberg, a leading diamond merchant on Fifth Avenue had earlier agreed to an interview but when I turned up for it, suggested that he was the wrong man. Alarmed, I asked him if he had had a phone call. He answered: 'Yes.' I asked what was said. He answered: 'I was told you had worked for blacks in Australia and made life difficult for diamond mining companies.'
We talked, I told him how Aborigines like Jews had land they regarded as holy. He then agreed to be interviewed and gave us lunch as well. Garsin, a former employee of Tempelsman, the friend of many a US president and an effective lobbyist for the diamond cartel, changed his mind about being interviewed on camera but only after he had told us what we needed to know about deals done with Mobutu. We secured over twenty interviews in the USA despite all threats, although not all we wanted. I produced and was the principal journalist. The shoots came in precisely on budget. The film was underway. Our interviewees told us tales of the romance and dealing, of trickery, power and influence that shaped the male world of the diamond trade while selling diamonds as an ornament of women and as an ikon of human love. ..
...Then on the 1st of November 1992, when we were two thirds of the way through shooting the film, a gang made their way into my home, a 41 foot oak and cedar boat on the River Thames. I was assaulted sexually, my head used as a punchbag, my check bone fractured, ,my nose broken. There was no attempt to rob me. They fled when I managed to grab the ship to shore radio and press an emergency number... At this point, my body just could not take the continual trauma any longer. I had thought myself tougher than I was. Pains I had in my leg since the assault suddenly became acute. The Royal Women's Hospital in Melbourne found I had deep vein thrombosis. A day later the deputy registrar of the hospital warned me that I was critically ill and could die any time in the next two weeks. He gave me a buzzer and told me I had to keep it in my hand at all times and use it to call urgently for a nurse if I felt myself going unconscious. I had never been ill like this before - nor ever had such a warning.
...I was left alone by the cartel as I wrote my book. I think they thought me defeated and certainly I was so traumatised that I could not for many months even bear to try to phone the BBC to find out what was happening to my film.
However De Beers was still active. ..