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Diamonds to be returned to owner
December, 20th 2011

The Customs Excise and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal has held that the 1,641 diamonds worth Rs 2.85 crore, stolen from an exhibition centre in Goregaon in August 2010, will be returned to its owner.

A February order by Customs had rejected the owner's claim to the diamonds due to lack of proof of ownership. The statement of Jacov Itzchaki, managing director of Dalumi Diamonds, was "at best a claim of ownership of the diamonds and not proof of ownership", the order stated.

On August 23, 2010, four thieves stole diamonds weighing 88,699 carats from the firm's stall at the exhibition in Goregaon. Two days later, they tried to smuggle the diamonds to Italy through a courier company. Directorate of Revenue Intelligence ( DRI) officials seized the diamonds after receiving a tip-off. The crime branch investigated and subsequently, Interpol arrested four persons at Dubai airport and found over 245 diamonds which were returned to the owner. One accused, Perez Valmore, is not traceable.

The Customs department, in its February 9 order, said that the courier agency could pay Rs 30-lakh fine and claim 1,641 diamonds. The courier agency did not make the claim saying the diamonds did not belong to them. Dalumi appealed before the tribunal which said that the metropolitan magistrate's court has already ordered its release and hence would not discuss it. The issue of whether Dalumi is liable to pay a fine before the diamonds are released will be decided by Customs commissioner at the airport, the tribunal said.

Dalumi's counsel said there was no attempt to export the diamonds and hence fine is not payable. The adjudicating authority has to determine whether the diamonds were attempted to be exported contrary to any prohibition imposed by or under the Customs Act or any other law for the time being in force, the tribunal said.

If the commissioner finds the courier did not make any attempt to export the goods, they cannot be confiscated and will be liable to be released unconditionally to the owner, the tribunal said. On the other hand, if there was an attempt by the courier, as an agent of Valmore, to export the goods, it can be confiscated. The option to redeem the goods is with the owner because the criminal court ordered release of diamonds to Dalumi. The tribunal said the commissioner will consider Dalumi's request to re-export the diamonds.

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