China jails 21 Indian diamond merchants for smuggling | india | Hindustan Times
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China jails 21 Indian diamond merchants for smuggling

India has sought consular access to 21 of its nationals detained in China on diamond smuggling charges, and expects to get the same on Wednesday. The 21, mostly from Gujarat, are charged with illegally transporting the gems from Hong Kong to the south China boomtown of Shenzhen. HT reports.

india Updated: Jan 13, 2010 01:14 IST
HT Correspondents

India has sought consular access to 21 of its nationals detained in China on diamond smuggling charges, and expects to get the same on Wednesday.

<b1>The 21, mostly from Gujarat, are charged with illegally transporting the gems from Hong Kong to the south China boomtown of Shenzhen. They were detained on January 8.

“Our immediate priority is to seek consular access and we expect to get that tomorrow,” S Jaishankar, India’s ambassador to China, told HT on Tuesday.

Indian officials from the embassy in Beijing and consulate in Guangzhou are currently in Shenzhen. “The consular officers are expected to be granted access to the detained Indians tomorrow,” the official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, too, said.

Earlier, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said she’d sought a detailed report from the mission on developments there.

The timing indicates the incident has no connection to Monday’s arrest of three Chinese technocrats in Chhattisgarh, in connection with the collapse of a chimney at metal major Bharat Aluminium Company’s construction site in Korba last September. That mishap had left 45 workers dead.

The Shenzhen incident has stunned diamond traders in India — the leading foreign presence at the Shanghai Diamond Exchange. “We don’t have any confirmed reports or clues to these arrests... There seems to be something fishy,” said Rohit Mehta, president, Surat Diamond Association.

China is competing to displace India as the world’s largest diamond processing centre.