Thirteen of the 22 Indian diamond traders who were behind bars in China on smuggling charges for 23 months will be home soon. The Shenzhen court ordered their release on Wednesday. The traders, most of them from Mumbai, were arrested by Shenzen customs officials on January 8, 2010, for smuggling diamonds worth $7.3 million (Rs 34 crore at that time) from Hong Kong to China.
Shenzhen, known for its diamond processing units, is a city in China’s Guangdong province close to Hong Kong.
On Wednesday, the court passed varied sentences against the 13 traders ranging from fine and deportation to a 23-month jail term that has already been served. The nine other traders were sentenced to jail for three to six years.
Reacting to the judgment, Gujarat CM Narendra Modi tweeted, “I am thankful to China for acting on my request of speeding up judicial process...”
Gujarat government officials said during his visit to China last month, Modi had asked for expediting the trial.
Parth Shah, 32, a Mumbai resident, is one of the traders to be deported. “They are all young men, we were scared earlier, but now we are very relieved,” said his uncle Kishore.
Ashok Shah, uncle of Mumbai-based trader Samir Shah, 32, said his nephew was released on Wednesday. Samir had been sentenced to 23 months in prison, said Ashok, who went to China on Tuesday night.
Chandrakant Sanghavi, a diamond baron and member of gems and jewellery council in Surat, said the men were arrested on basis of suspicion.
The Shenzhen officials had arrested the 22 Indians after a Chinese man was caught with three packets of rough diamonds strapped to his body.
During interrogation, he had revealed names of the Indian traders and some foreigners for whom he was illegally carrying diamonds.
Hardik Hundiya, diamond market expert, said, “People have now seen the repercussion of illegal business. They
should stop indulging in such activities.”