Gangsters target Gujarati diamond traders in Antwerp

Gangsters are targeting affluent Gujarati businessman in the traditional European diamond trading capital of Antwerp.

The Times of India reports that the new-found dominance of the Antwerp diamond trade by businessman hailing from the Indian state of Gujarat has made them appealing targets for international mafia groups.

On two occasions since 2010 armed mobsters have taken hostage the family members of leading Gujarati diamond traders operating out of Antwerp.

On October 12 of this year the wife of Prashant Bhalani, a sales manager for Kirans Gem Private Limited, was held hostage by armed gangsters who threatened to shoot her unless Bhalani provided them with diamonds.

On March 5, 2010 Pankaj Maldar, chief of the Antwerp office of India's KARP Impex, was held hostage along with the rest of his family in his Antwerp home by three men speaking Italian, who demanded polished diamonds in exchange for their release.

Over the past two decades Gujarati businessmen have supplanted Ashkenazi Jews as the dominant players in the Antwerp diamond trade, which accounts for around four fifths of the world's uncut diamond transactions. They currently control roughly 80% of the Belgium city's $45 billion annual diamond trade and own 70% of the 1,850 companies in Antwerp's historic diamond center.

In response to the brazen and terrifying attacks Gujarati diamond traders have been forced to adopt more stringent security measures including CCTV systems in their own homes and armed security guards.

Antwerp's Gujarati community has also launched calls for the government to provide more police patrol in residential areas, and made appeals with Belgian diplomatic staff in New Delhi and Mumbai.