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Sierra Leone pastor pledges to give money from sale of 709-carat diamond to the poor

(Reuters/Nir Elias)A 709-carat diamond, found in Sierra Leone and known as the "Peace Diamond", is displayed during a tour ahead of its auction, at Israel's Diamond Exchange, in Ramat Gan, Israel October 19, 2017. Picture taken October 19, 2017.

A pastor who found a 709-carat diamond in Sierra Leone has pledged to give money from the sale of the precious stone to help the poor in his village.

Pastor Emmanuel Momoh, who discovered the giant "Peace Diamond" in the village of Koryadu in March, has vowed to sell the gem to bring clean water and medical supplies to his village.

"The Peace Diamond will greatly improve the lives of our people as it will bring clean water, electricity, schools, medical facilities, bridges and roads to our villages and the Kono District," the pastor said in a statement, according to Forbes.

The diamond, the second largest rough ever found in Sierra Leone, was sold for $6.5 million to British jeweler Graff Diamonds at an auction in New York on Dec. 4, but it was $1.3 million less than the offer in May, CBS News reported.

Forbes noted that Momoh delivered the diamond to the President of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Koroma, who led a transparent and competitive auction process in Sierra Leone in May. The high bid of $7.7 million at the auction was rejected and the government opted for an international auction process that would make the gem available to more buyers and ensure a fair market value price for the people of Sierra Leone.

Momoh will not receive the entire proceeds from the sale of the diamond because he had violated the Mines and Minerals Act by unearthing the stone while his application for a mining license was still being processed, according to the National Minerals Agency, which oversaw the sale of the gem.

"So technically, he did not own the diamond. The diamond belongs to the government of Sierra Leone," the Director-General of the minerals regulatory agency, Sahr Wonday, was quoted as saying.

Momoh will receive 40 percent of the proceeds and the rest will go to the government of Sierra Leone in the form of taxes. The Rapaport Group, which held the international auction, said that 15 percent will go to the Diamond Area Community Development Fund for infrastructure and 26 percent will go to the artisanal diggers who found the diamond.

"The sale of the Sierra Leone Peace Diamond represents a new future for the people of Sierra Leone," Martin Rapaport said in a statement. "We anticipate a virtuous cycle of development as taxes from the sale provide tangible benefit to the artisanal sector. This will encourage more diggers to sell their diamonds through legitimate channels increasing tax revenue and vital infrastructure development," he added.

Laurence Graff, founder of Graff Diamonds, said that a staff of diamond specialists will determine the best way to turn the rough diamond into a polished gem.

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