10 Indian diamond traders jailed in China; 12 to be deported

10 Indian diamond traders jailed in China; 12 to be deported

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, told PTI 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.

Of the ten traders, Rajesh Kumar Jain was jailed for the maximum six years, Bavishi Rajukumar and Soni Amitkumar Arunkumar were sentenced to five years in prison each and Rishit Maheshkumar Shah to three years and six months. Arunkumar was also fined 300,000 yuan (Rs 24 lakh).

Sameer Arvindlal Shah was sentenced to one year and 11 months in prison while Dharam Veer Patel, Dhaval Vikulkumar Patel, Mitulkumar Mafatlal Chhunchha, Shah Nishith Girishbhai and Vipulkumar Manubhai Patel were awarded a jail term of three years each.
Dhaval Patel was also fined 500,000 yuan (Rs 40 lakh).

The 12 others -- Jigar Prafulchandra Mehta, who was also fined 1,000,000 yuan (Rs 80 lakh); Nehal Nitin Shah; Jagani Mahendra Smith; Shripal Sureshbhai Parikh; Shrenik Suresh Parikh; Vishal Shailesh Mehta; Paratik Kumar Nemchand Parikh; Pritex Mansukhlal Doshi; Ankit Prakashchandra Shah; Taral Manoj Parekh; Parth Dineshchandra Shah; and Shah Viral -- were ordered to be deported.

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