Mumbai Customs in India has seized two shipments of diamonds from Antwerp – one rough, one polished – on very questionable grounds, according to a trusted source. Another sixteen shipments are on hold.
The two shipments were reportedly seized at customs on the basis of minor paperwork errors. The shipment of rough diamonds was blocked because of a $0.01 (one cent) error on the value of the diamonds, which clearly appears to be a ‘typo’. The shipment of polished diamonds was blocked because it included a Kimberley Process certificate, which is not required for polished diamonds. We have no information currently about the additional six shipments, neither of their contents nor the reason they are being delayed. A decision is expected by the end of the week.
Antwerp’s Diamond Office, which monitors all diamond exports from and imports to Belgium, has an impeccable reputation and executes three levels of controls on every shipment, including the physical inspection and valuation of every parcel of diamonds entering or leaving the Office. This is what makes the seizure all the more concerning. “Blocking a shipment due to what is clearly an honest and insignificant human error is highly irregular,” our source told us on condition of anonymity. “This is not the kind of action the industry needs in these times of great uncertainty. It is not only disproportionate but also erects a barrier to trade.”
Indian Customs has been making the headlines this year, with the Business Standard writing in January that “the hostile approach of the Customs department towards rough imports are major roadblocks for the industry.” India's Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) also filed a complaint against customs officials in January. The issue relates back to a Mumbai Customs directive outlining new procedures for importing rough diamonds, which seek details on origin, size, shape, type, color and clarity of the precious stones from overseas. The fear is that even a minute discrepancy in the norms may lead to seizure, followed by a huge penalty, which could affect manufacturing activity in Surat, the country’s diamond cutting and polishing hub, according to The Economic Times.