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We Must Act Against Diamond Industry Fraudsters Now

The diamond industry has of late been wracked by a string of bankruptcies all over the world — India, Antwerp, Hong Kong, Dubai and Bangkok, just to name the main centres. The industry is braced for more to come and what is really worrying is that those who will be impacted most are not those going bankrupt, but those whom they owe money when they go belly-up.

The monies owed in diamond bankruptcies sometimes run into hundreds of millions of dollars. A terrible sign of the times is that a bankruptcy with tens of millions owed is now considered “routine”.

A business going bankrupt is, by itself, not something that should worry us. Business involves taking risks and sometimes a person makes a miscalculation that is so big, the business cannot recover from it. Bankruptcies are part of life in any business segment.

The vast majority of the diamond bankruptcies of late, however, have NOT been a result of business miscalculations, market downturns, or bad timing. They have all been planned, well-orchestrated moves to intentionally defraud other diamond industry stakeholders, particularly banks, of large sums of money. Many of these people — particularly in India — have been declared wilful defaulters by the banks and the authorities. And we’re all braced for many more.

These bankruptcies do two things. First, they cause banks to lose trust the diamond industry as a whole. Most banks today, are reluctant to do business with diamond industry stakeholders. Standard Chartered, which had diamond portfolio of some $2 billion, has decided it wants to exit the diamond finance segment completely. They also make governments suspicious of the industry as a whole.

In the Indian diamond industry, you can declare yourself bankrupt; leave dozens of banks and other diamantaires whom you’ve taken goods on memo from, poorer by tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars poorer, and exit without any action being taken.

What is really shocking is that within months of declaring bankruptcy, many of these people are back in the diamond business, usually with a newly set-up company or in partnership with a relative already in the diamond industry.

Now banks and even governments are calling for action. If we want to keep their trust, the entire diamond industry must act. And we do have the means.

All those who declare these fraudulent bankruptcies are members of some industry body or the other. In India, you have to be a member of the Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC), the Bharat Diamond Bourse (BDB) or bodies like the Mumbai Diamond Merchants Association (MDMA).

All these bodies have articles of association that include stipulations of moral and ethical behaviour in all the member’s dealings with other members. There are clearly spelled out consequences if these rules are breached. The global diamond industry fraternity must pressure the governing bodies of these institutions to take stringent action against these erring members under their own articles of association.

Also, the majority stakeholders of the diamond industry stakeholder are members of the World Federation of Diamond Bourses (WFDB). The WFDB too has clearly spelled out norms on such issues. The WFDB too should insist that member bourses take action against such people.

In India, we need to support and strengthen the initiatives taken by banks and other financial institutions, as well as the government against all publicly declared wilful defaulters. If our institutions can persuade banks to provide us data on their diamond industry non-performing assets (NPAs), we can take some proactive measures.

We gained the respect of governments and civil society organisations when we took the lead to form the Kimberley Process. We need to do the same thing now with regard to the diamond industry’s financial and business dealings.

If we don’t act, we are definitely going to have more of these cases. It is an easy way to make huge amounts of money at the cost of others. We will all be the poorer for it, our reputations tarnished in the eyes of the financial institutions and governments and institutional finance will become all but impossible to get.

If you agree with what I have said, please speak up or write to your representative institutions. Your own future is at stake.

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12 Comments
Thanks for making people aware of the arising situation which is going to affect those who are in the diamond industry.I believe that quick steps should be launched in order to form a strong wall of people in the field to act fast to get organized to overcome the arising situation.You suggest how and when we can start actions.
Very good article raising some important issues. Companies not acting responsibly financially have tarnished the reputation of this industry, and in effect, created problems for all other companies part of the industry. Banks have already started taking stricter actions (reducing credit facilities, raising interest rates, asking for more collateral, etc.), and while this makes doing business more difficult/costly, it is the only way to make our industry cleaner. If other big bodies become stricter and tighter with their practices, we can go a long way in solving the problems of bankruptcies.
Thank you for the informative blog. I fully agree, we must find a way to NOT allow these willful defaulters to re-enter the trade.
Finally someone is speaking up... you've been doing it for some time. As I said in my presentation during the last IIJS in August 2015, we need to step up. Great work Sanjaybhai. Keep it up. PS: For those who missed my presentation, here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RcHsMkz2x10
The world of diamonds is a close-knit community. Rarely do one go after another openly. Bankers and most outsiders think they are hand in glove with each other. To dispel this perception, diamond firms and trade bodies should blacklist the fraudulent firms to ring fence the good ones. Mr Kothari has rightly voiced his concerns... It's time for others to speak up
Well said Sanjay! You are calling for appropriate and well needed changes in the market. Implementing them will bring positive evolution.
A lot of people who are not registered on GEMKonnect also wrote in after reading this blog post. Here's what Mr R. Gopalan, the Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Commerce & Industry and the Indian government's former Banking Secretary had to say: Your views are correct. Wrongdoers must be punished as they bring discredit to others. This industry employs millions. We need to remember that. We need to regain the trust of banking industry. Policies that enabled such wrong doings must be reversed. Here also is a comment from diamantaire Bharat Suraiya: We agree to your views and action must b taken against wrongdoers.
Good read. Diamond prices have been so regulated and sold at above logical figures that the consumer is losing trust in the jewelry business; which affects the diamond industry in its turn, and is not considering anymore buying jewelry as an investment opportunity. Things must be done not only at wholesalers level but at the root as well. Without consumers, manufacturers cease to exist, and in turn wholesalers, and then site holders, and DeBeers. When I started working in the jewelry business some 25 years ago, I never heard of giving 6 months credit for retailers on jewelry they buy. It was a cash business at that time and the industry was healthy. Today som many manufacturers destroyed the business by granting many months of credit just to get customers. This cycle affected the way supplier of diamonds did the business because it created a vicious cycle where they too have to give so many months in credit to manufacturers. How can any business sustain such credit line without defaulting somewhere? The whole industry is a big omelet that is impossible to undo.
Dear Sanjay, Thank you for your perseverance "and not letting go" on this issue. Indeed the vast majority of traders and manufacturers highly underestimate the damage to their reputation, competitivity and ultimately viability to their business, the criminal actions of a few represents. Financial institutions need to be close to their customers and not justified actions merely by ticking boxes. On the other hand, bankers are overall rightfully justified in their disappointment by the lack of enforcement by the trade organizations in charge of discipline. We must increase collaboration between the centers to make sure these individuals cannot get away with their crimes in one center and continue in others. Keep on Sanjay !
Sanjaybhai, perfectly relevant article to the present situation. Industry has to take strict action against these people as well as those who take loans and divert funds to other businesses.
Great sharing Sanjaybhai. Time to act responsibly. For the intention of this article to get fulfilled, each diamondtiare needs to act. And for each diamondtiare to act, they need to go beyond their "limited interest". "Maru Shu" thi "Apnu Shu" requires shift in the mind set and first courageous step. It's possible. Also time to make "GJEPC - A Powerhouse" Thanks for thought provoking article. Maulik Shah
Colorado (USA) has a new Diamond Discovery a couple years ago and I have one GREENSTONE GEOLOGY with diamonds here in central Oregon and I won't even develop the diamond deposit as flooded market. My wife Debbie is typical of American consumers. She distrust any diamond industry after the South Africa monopoly fiasco.. we'll develop associated hard (Moh's 7+) from soapstones, moonstones, jades, bronzite, etc. As a retired U.S National Park Ranger, who now writes nonfiction books, I llok forward to get back in mining industry of youth.