Britons suspected of smuggling 'blood' gems held in Angola

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Two British men have been arrested on suspicion of smuggling blood diamonds after their aircraft landed in a remote military zone in Angola.

John Davies, reportedly a professional hunter, and his pilot, a man with dual British and South African nationality named Reginald, landed in southern Angola without permission at the weekend.

The two men – with Stanley Valentine, a South African man described by South Africa's Beeld newspaper as a foreign currency dealer – took off from Lanseria airport near Johannesburg at the weekend. They landed in an area where there had been heavy fighting between the Angolan government and Unita rebels last year, said Dumisani Rasheleng, a South African Foreign Affairs spokesman.

Unita mostly funds its war effort by smuggling diamonds out of Angola in violation of strict United Nations sanctions.

A spokeswoman for the Foreign Office said: "Our officials have spoken to the detained men. We understand they were on a business trip."

The men, who were on their way to Namibia, apparently made an emergency landing because of navigation problems, Mr Rasheleng said.

"The men are unharmed and at this stage we are not sure if charges will be brought against them," Mr Rasheleng said, adding Angolan authorities were holding the men in the town of Calai, just across the border from the Namibian town of Rundu.

He described the men as game rangers, though Beeld referred to Mr Valentine as a foreign currency dealer and Mr Davies a professional hunter. The Afrikaans-language newspaper reported yesterday that the men were forced to buy water and food from the Angolan authorities.

The British spokeswoman said consular officials were seeking access to the men.

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