Shortly after the discovery of diamonds near the Northern Cape town of Alexander Bay in 1925, a syndicate sold its diamond rights to German geologist Hans Merensky. According to AW Wells’s 1939 work, SA, A Planned Tour of the Country, the syndicate declined Merensky’s offer of £10,000 in cash and a half share in all the diamonds found. It wanted £17,500 in cash for the rights, and that was what it got. So prodigious was the output at Alexander Bay that government took control of it to prevent the collapse of the market. A shuttle service — "the diamond planes" — made regular flights to the town, carrying back uncut diamonds worth £250,000 per trip. It was not long before reports circulated that bribes of £25,000 had been offered to the pilots to make forced landings in the desert at a prearranged spot. In the 1950s, a Capetonian is said to have flown an Auster plane to a spot on the diamond coast. He either crashed or the plane became stuck in the sand, and he was arrested by a poli...

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