"The biggest lesson we have learnt is that we have to make sure that we know the laws"

Twelve diamond traders returned to India from China early on Friday after being released from a detention centre in Shenzhen, where they had been kept for nearly two years. The traders thanked the Indian and the Chinese governments for the “fair treatment” given to them.

“The Indian consulate there took a lot of effort to take care of us. There was a lot of government pressure too. The Chinese government was very understanding and helpful,” 26-year-old diamond trader Nehal Shah told The Hindu. He works for Diavie Shanghai Limited, a diamond trading company listed in Shanghai.

Media reports said more than 32 Indians and some foreigners were detained by the Chinese authorities on charges of smuggling in 2009 when they were found taking undeclared diamonds worth crores of rupees from Hong Kong to Shenzhen.

The traders refused to talk about the case and said it was lack of communication that led to the detention.

“The laws regarding tax were not clear. They thought Hong Kong was a part of China. The officials took them into custody for interrogation about tax evasion,” Raju Shah, Mr. Nehal's uncle said.

Mr. Nehal said the law of the land must be understood before doing business in a particular country. “The biggest lesson we have learnt is that we have to make sure that we know the laws. We were not aware of the laws there,” he said.

“I also learnt the Chinese language. Language is the only problem there. They can't understand English. So, in the months that I stayed there, I learnt the language. I can now read and write in Chinese,” he said proudly.

He pointed out that while they were detained there, the media had been consistently giving out wrong reports.

“The media has been giving wrong reports. Firstly, we were not jailed. And secondly, we were not kept in bad condition. They took very good care of us,” he said.

“We are not criminals. We were not convicted. We were kept at a detention centre in Shenzhen city, and not in a jail. Detention centre is like a temporary residence. We were kept there when the court procedure and the interrogation was in process,” he said. He was kept there for one year and 11 months.

“Also, we were provided all the facilities including medical care. If you felt unwell, you only had to inform the authorities and the doctors would visit you. Not just that, even our family members were allowed to meet us once in three months. That is a very big thing. Since, under the law, even a Chinese national cannot meet his family when the court proceedings and the investigation are on,” he said.

“When they provide you with everything and still the media carries reports about the bad condition in which we are kept, it creates a negative impression about India,” he said. When it was pointed out that it was the relatives of the traders who had provided the information to the media, he said that it was natural for them to feel worried but that not all the relatives knew about their condition.

Most of the 12 traders who landed at the Mumbai International Airport are from Surat in Gujarat. After they landed, they refused to talk to the media. A small scuffle broke out between the media persons and the relatives of the traders, media persons said.

“At that time, all we wanted was to spend time with our families. We did not want to talk to the media,” Mr. Nehal said.

Among those who landed at the airport were: Sameer Shah, Parth Shah, Smith Jagnani, Prateek Parekh, Sripal Parekh, Shrenik Parekh, Vishal Mehta, Ankit Shah, Viral Mehta and Pritesh Doshi.

Some other Indians who have been detained in China may have to face imprisonment there.

“We are happy that the 12 traders are back. We will be happier when the rest come back,” Rajiv Jain, chairperson, Gems and Jewellery Export Promotion Council, told The Hindu from Jaipur. He said there was no direct interaction with any of the traders. “Their families have not talked to us about the grounds of detention. Whatever we have come to know is only through news reports,” he said.

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