10 Indian diamond traders jailed in China

Last Updated: Wednesday, December 7, 2011 - 17:38

Beijing: Ten of the 22 Indian traders,
charged with smuggling diamonds worth USD 7.3 million into
China, were on Wednesday sentenced to varied prison terms ranging
from 23 months to six years by a Shenzhen court, which ordered
the deportation of the remaining 12.

The Shenzhen Intermediate People`s Court, which conducted
the trial of the diamond traders, most of them from Gujarat,
sentenced one of them to six years; two to five years each;
one to three years and six months; and five others to three
years each, Indian officials, who attended the court
proceedings, said here.

One more trader was sentenced to one year and eleven
months in jail, according to sketchy details received here.

The court ordered the deportation of the remaining 12
traders, an official said.

Some of the traders were also slapped fines ranging from
three lakh to ten lakh yuan (Rs 24 lakh to Rs 80 lakh).

Officials of the Indian Consulate at Guangzhou attended
the court proceedings.

The 22 traders were arrested on January 8, 2010 in
Shenzhen and charged with smuggling diamonds worth USD 7.3
million.

They were accused of sourcing at least 14,000 carats of
diamonds illegally from Hong Kong for sale in the Chinese
market.

They were also charged with controlling a smuggling ring,
working with "henchmen from Hong Kong", according to reports
published earlier in the local media.

The jail terms awarded to the 10 traders would include
their detention period, which means one of them who has been
handed down the sentence of one year and 11 months would also
be released soon.

Ever since the arrest of the 22 diamond traders, India
has taken up their case at various levels.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh took it up with his
counterpart Wen Jiabao during the Chinese leader`s visit to
New Delhi last year. External Affairs Minister S M Krishna
also took up the case with his counterpart Yang Jiechi.

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who recently
visited China, too urged the Chinese leadership to release
them.

Following the hectic lobbying efforts, the Chinese
government permitted the detainees facilities like access to
vegetarian food, considering that most of them were strict
vegetarians.

They were also provided periodic access to families as
well as consular access.

Indian officials said that though the sentences handed
down to the traders were a disappointment, they were relieved
that the detainees were not awarded heavy jail terms
considering the severity of charges filed against them.

Stating that the "relatively lenient" sentences were
result of silent engagement on this issue between the two
countries, the Indian officials pointed to the 13-year prison
term awarded to an Australian businessman by a court Guangzhou two days ago. The Australian was accused of embezzlement.

Indian Consul General in Guangzhou, Indramani Pandy, will
be meeting court officials tomorrow to get exact details.

Indian Ambassador to China S Jaishankar along with Pandy
had met the traders last month and discussed their case and
well-being.

PTI



First Published: Wednesday, December 7, 2011 - 17:38

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