Plea hearing scheduled for De Beers

More than a decade after De Beers was indicted on price-fixing charges, representatives from the diamond giant are scheduled to appear in a United States federal court for an arraignment and plea hearing.

The original indictment was issued on February 17 1994, but no one from De Beers has appeared to answer the charges, Keith Mayton, senior law clerk for US District Judge George Smith, said on Tuesday. The new hearing was scheduled for March 11.

Prosecution of De Beers has proven difficult because US officials have no jurisdiction over the company, which is based in South Africa.

Officials with the US Department of Justice in Washington, DC, declined comment.

Steven Sunshine, a Washington-based attorney representing De Beers, did not return a call.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday that De Beers is in talks to settle the case and wants to resume operations in the United States.
The company has not operated in the United States since shortly after World War II, when an earlier price-fixing charge was filed.

The Department of Justice in 1994 filed complaints against De Beers and General Electric alleging they conspired to keep prices in the worldwide industrial diamond market artificially high.

Federal officials alleged that GE and De Beers, which at the time controlled about 80% of the market, told each other about price increases in advance.

A federal judge dismissed charges against General Electric in December 1994, saying the government had failed to prove its case.

The suits were filed in Columbus because GE’s industrial diamond business was headquartered in the Columbus suburb of Worthington.

Industrial diamonds are used to make cutting and polishing tools.

De Beers diamonds are sold in the United States, but not directly by the company. - Sapa-AP

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