Belgium-based diamond merchant tortured to death in India by creditors

Mumbai, India, police have arrested four diamond dealers and charged them with the torture and murder of a Belgium-based diamond trader who reportedly owed them, and other diamond merchants, money, according to several press reports from India.

Police continue to search for approximately 10 other diamond dealers who may have been involved in the death of Rajesh Himatlal Shah. According to India’s Indian Express News Service, Newindpress, Ahmedabad Newsline, and other new services in India, Shah, 42, owed several diamond dealers an estimated Rs 250 crore ($54.46 million).

Police, who found Shah’s body early Friday morning (Sept. 12), said he was kidnapped the previous night and tortured to death, according to news reports. The post mortem report from JJ Hospital confirmed what police suspected. That Shah died of severe electric shocks and injuries to his vital parts. Police reportedly said that Shah had been beaten and kicked in the groin. One news report says that police may believe that the death may have been accidental, that the killers had intended merely to scare Shah in order to recover their money.

The four diamond merchants who have been charged with the murder of Shah are Manishbhai Jevani, 24, Sureshbhai Baroda, 29, Dineshbhai Jevani, 29, and Vinodbhai Patel, 37.

Soon after the murder, the police arrested Paresh Mangokia , 23, reportedly an employee of Priyanka Gems. Also, police reportedly seized the Mitsubishi Lancer in which the victim had been brought to an office inside the Phoenix Building where he was tortured and killed. Police are also reportedly looking for Babubhai Otha (Mangokia), who is reportedly the owner of Priyanka Gems, in whose restroom the murder took place.

On Thursday evening, press reports say that Shah was forced into the car from his elder brothers’ home in Mumbai, where he was living, to the Phoenix Building office.

The mission was a “settlement” with fellow diamond traders, according to press reports. He was confined there for more than six hours. In between, several diamond traders dropped in. But talks didn’t progress very far.

Police reached the second floor of Phoenix Building just after midnight on Friday where they found the Shah’s body inside the restroom of the office.

Investigators are on the lookout for other diamond traders to whom Shah owed money, according to India press reports.

The police have also summoned Shah’s brother-in-law Mahendra Gandhi, who played the role of a middleman in supplying polished diamonds to Shah in Belgium, according to press reports. Police are trying to ascertain the exact sum of money he owed and a listing of Shah’s assets. Police reportedly say this will indicate whether Shah had been duped by his buyers in Israel and the United States or if he had been pretending to be bankrupt.

There are also whispers among some diamond traders that Shah had been forcibly sent to India to begin bargaining for a settlement, according to press reports.

In addition to Priyanka Gems, news reports say that Shah owed money to several other companies, including Zalpa Diamond, Kunal Diamond, D Navinchandra, Sheetal, Kiran exporters, K Rajanikant, Zalpa Diamonds, Priyanka Jems.

Shah’s brother-in-law Gandhi purchased diamonds from these companies and sold them to Shah in Belgium, according to news reports.

By March 2003, news reports indicate that Shah was unable pay Gandhi who, in turn, failed to pay his creditors. Slowly, in a span of three to four months, the debts reportedly rose from Rs 100 crore to Rs 250 crore. According to the police, Shah informed Gandhi that his buyers in Israel and the US had sunk, blocking a huge sum, but assured Gandhi that he would repay the debts as soon as the money began flowing in.

About four months ago, the suppliers met Shah in Antwerp where they are believed to have recovered some of the money owed.

Shah is survived by his wife and children in Belgium.