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South Africa: Man swallows 220 diamonds in smuggling attempt

South African police say a Lebanese man swallowed 220 polished diamonds, worth $2.3 million, before trying to board a plane from Johannesburg to Dubai.

diamond smuggler south africa Enlarge
South African police say a 25-year-old Lebanese man swallowed 220 diamonds, worth $2.3 million, in an attempt to smuggle them on a flight from Johannesburg to Dubai. (Mandel Ngan /AFP/Getty Images)

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Police have arrested a man who allegedly swallowed 220 polished diamonds and tried to smuggle them out of the country.

The 25-year-old unnamed man, said to be of Lebanese origin, was caught with the gems worth $2.3 million while trying to board a plane from Johannesburg to Dubai.

South Africa's elite police unit, the Hawks, stopped the man at OR Tambo International Airport after responding to a tip, the South African Press Association reported.

“We nabbed him just before he went through the security checkpoint,” Hawks spokesman Paul Ramaloko told Agence France-Presse.

Ramaloko told the Daily Mail that officers gave the man laxatives to expel the diamonds from his system.

In March, a 27-year-old Lebanese man was similarly arrested at OR Tambo airport with $1.7 million in diamonds, SAPA reported.

Police are investigating whether the two are part of a diamond-smuggling syndicate.

While South Africa was previously one of the world's biggest producers of diamonds, many are now mined in neighboring Zimbabwe and Botswana. 

A report released Monday by the Canadian watchdog group Partnership Africa Canada accused Zimbabwe’s government of pilfering $2 billion in diamonds from the country's lucrative Marange fields and using the money to enrich corrupt government officials.

More from GlobalPost: The case of Zimbabwe’s stolen diamonds

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/africa/south-africa/121114/south-africa-lebanese-man-swallows-220-diamonds-smuggling-attempt