Manas Dasgupta

AHMEDABAD: Even as the diamond industry in Surat is flustered over the arrest of some Surat-based traders in China for the alleged smuggling of diamonds, the Gujarat police on Wednesday arrested a Chinese engineer for violation of prohibition law and seized a huge quantity of allegedly smuggled contraband liquor.

The arrested man was identified as Xu-Zsiyong, a 30-year-old engineer working in the Mundra mega power project in Kutch district. The liquor was kept under his charge in a house in the Chinese colony in Sircha village, Mundra taluka. The colony is so named because a large number of Chinese workers working for the contractor of the project stay in a cluster of houses in the village.

The liquor haul included over 10,000 bottles of Chinese-made beer and about 500 bottles of whiskey and other brands of liquor allegedly smuggled in a huge container off-loaded at the Mundra port. The seizure was made following a tip-off that the liquor had been imported illegally from China without any valid permit, Mundra police inspector M.K. Rana said.

Meanwhile, Surat Diamond Association secretary Rohit Mehta strongly criticised the arrest of the diamond traders in China’s Shenzhen district, about an hour’s drive from Hong Kong, on a serious charge like smuggling.

“At the most there can be some technical issue of misinterpretation of applicability of the law of the land, but to charge them for a serious offence like smuggling is uncalled for,” he said.

Mr. Mehta said many diamond traders, mostly from Surat, had set up shops in China at the persuasion of the Chinese authorities, who wanted the diamond cutting and polishing industry to flourish there.

“Such people would never be indulging in smuggling. At the best there could be some business-related discrepancies which should be sorted out in a civilised manner. But not to allow those arrested men even to talk to their near and dear ones in India is highly objectionable,” he said.

Pravin Nanavati, former president of the Southern Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry, also hoped the problem would soon be sorted out amicably. He pointed out that during his tenure as the Chamber president, many high-level Chinese delegations had come to Surat to try to understand the nuances of the diamond trade and offered lucrative incentives to Surat traders to open shops in that country.

“Many of our traders were invited to go across to China to set up units there, and now charging such people with smuggling is uncalled for,” Mr. Nanavati said.