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Bad News for Pat Robertson

Pat Robertson Documentary ‘Mission Congo’ Reignites Diamond Mine Fraud Allegations

A documentary scheduled to debut Friday at the Toronto International Film Festival shines a new spotlight on old allegations that televangelist Pat Robertson used money, intended for refugees in Africa, for his own diamond-mining venture.

Mission Congo,” directed by Lara Zizic and David Turner, was largely inspired by the reporting of journalist Bill Sizemore, who has covered Robertson extensively over the years and uncovered issues with the legitimacy of his nonprofit organization, Operation Blessing International, in the 1990s.

Following the Rwandan genocide, Robertson encouraged viewers of the Christian Broadcasting Network’s “The 700 Club” to donate money to Operation Blessing. He said the organization would be helping the many refugees who’d made their way into Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo).

But pilots who worked for the organization have claimed that instead of transporting aid, cargo planes were often used to haul equipment for Robertson-backed diamond mining that was going on hundreds of miles away.

In a 2008 article for the Virginia Quarterly Review, Sizemore recalled that one of the pilots had kept notes on some of his trips. During a flight where Robertson was a passenger, one of those notes read, “Prayed for diamonds.”

The documentary’s directors reached out to the pilots and told them their story needed to be told on film. According to a press release for the movie, Zizic and Turner are hoping to draw more attention to what they say was an under-reported scandal.

“Sometimes a story hits you so profoundly that you simply have to act,” the directors said in the release. “We were researching a fiction script when we came across an article mentioning Robertson’s dual activities in Congo. We felt that these activities, and implied level of deception, were unfathomable on so many levels that we had to find out more. How could something like this happen? Why was there not more coverage in the media? How did he get away with it? If it happened then, is it still happening now?”

Virginia’s Office of Consumer Affairs did investigate the claims against Robertsonfollowing Sizemore’s initial reporting and found that he “willfully induced contributions from the public through the use of misleading statements and other implications.” The state attorney’s office declined to prosecute.

As the Guardian notes, Robertson has used the office’s failure to prosecute as a way to bolster his innocence. He declined to be interviewed for the film.



One comment on “Bad News for Pat Robertson

  1. But for the subterfusion Robertson’s idea has great merit. I’ve personally spent a large portion of time in Africa diamond mining and buying and selling and having rough polished and cut for resale to the jewelry market. The profit margins are amazing! I even bought and then sold rough “industrial” quality and made a fair profit. Not sure of the details of the article notwithstanding Robertson comes with other questionable baggage, we all do, so there could be bonifide fire in that smoke.

    I was asked by a partner to come to Wash. DC and appraise some rough from the Congo. This rough were not blood diamonds as best I can tell and there were a number of “important” quality stones in the lot. I put Lewis in touch with diamond cutters I knew in New York who he hired to do the makes. I heard some of these stones did indeed become important quality diamonds that yielded the high margins one looks to achieve in this trade.

    I don’t think there is a problem with Robertson making an appeal for money to be plowed into a diamond business as long as he keeps things honest and in the light with every dollar accounted for.

    I would be suspect something untoward was going on if an independent accountanting source showed only par for par income then spending to bring relief to the poor! I know this business and good returns for the time spent is the normal.

    Just saying …!

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