Role of Media: Winsome Diamonds Crisis Displayed as Scandal

Role of Media: Winsome Diamonds Crisis Displayed as Scandal

Winsome Diamonds and Jewellery Limited, a public limited company incorporated in India in 1985, has carved an enviable niche for itself in the diamond production and distribution industry.  Over the course of three decades, Winsome Diamonds has garnered some impressive accomplishments, becoming the fourth largest Indian net foreign exchange earner as well as the largest exporter and processor of cut diamonds within its first ten years of trading.

Such accolades will naturally ruffle feathers amongst industry rivals and it would seem that Winsome has been the target of a smear campaign as of late.  In their ‘Pay India Back’ TV series, the Indian news channel Times Now made a number of grave accusations against the company, alleging ties between Winsome’s promoter Jatin Mehta and leading politicians and industrialists; even alleging that Winsome had committed fraud against a consortium of banks.

Winsome Diamonds has emphatically denied the allegations, countering with defamation claims in the Bombay High Court.  On 30th May 2017, Winsome submitted a letter to the Bombay Stock Exchange, presenting their side of the story.  In it, they cite stories aired by the Times Now Indian news channel as being false, defamatory, scandalous and malicious, pointing out that in broadcasting such accusations with no basis in fact, the entities operating the Times Now news channel, namely Global Broadcasting Company Limited and Bennet, Coleman and Company Limited, had committed an illegal act deliberately detrimental to Winsome’s trading.  Tellingly, after being contacted by Winsome, Times Now subsequently removed all offending material from their website, admitting the same in a letter to Winsome – a clear indictment against the integrity of the story in the first place.

In an interview with Diamond World, Winsome Diamonds Director Harshad Udani cleared the air, relaying details from the minutes of a Lenders Consortium meeting as long ago as September 2013, where Reshmi Khurana of KROLL admitted that allegations made by her were based largely on hearsay, with no foundation in fact.  Indeed, Ms Khurana admitted that she did not even have access to Winsome’s company accounts.   Harshad Udani alluded in the interview to a personal smear campaign against Jatin Mehta who, Mr Udani pointed out, continues to be a personal guarantor for Winsome and Forever despite having relinquished his executive position on the company board.

Jumping on the bandwagon of the Times Now coverage, Chaim Evan-Zohar, lead author for the Israel-based Diamond Intelligence Briefing, has further fanned the flames against Winsome Diamonds, launching a professional and personal attack on Jatin Mehta, casting aspersions over business dealings conducted by Mr Mehta and his family and publishing defamatory articles in the media.  Winsome has countered with a defamation suit against Zohar in the Bombay High Court, claiming damages of 1 billion US dollars.

The Diamond Intelligence Briefing, as with the Times Now broadcasting company, has subsequently removed the offending stories from their website after the threat of legal action by Winsome’s advocates – a damning indictment as to the material’s credibility.  Winsome has been attempting to serve Chaim Even-Zohar for some three years now in the billion dollar law suit without success, with Zohar continuing to evade service in the United Arab Emirates.

Allegations against Zohar abound.  It is alleged that both he and the Diamond Intelligence Briefing have a vested interest in bringing about Winsome Diamonds’ downfall.  Indeed, the ‘About Us’ page of the Diamond Intelligence Briefing website gives the mission statement that the organisation is a think tank serving stakeholders in the international diamond industry – hardly a position of impartiality.

Speaking with the Better Diamond Initiative, Harshad Udani categorically denied the allegations made by Times Now in their TV report, pointing out that the company was subject to scrupulous financial auditing by independent regulators and no wrongdoing of any kind was reported.

In the interview, Mr Udani reiterated his conviction that false and defamatory press on Winsome Diamonds and Jatin Mehta were all part of a smear campaign spawned by industry rivals.  He cited recent attempts to harm the reputation of Jatin Mehta’s son, Vishal Mehta, as an attempt to destroy the lab-grown diamond business the entrepreneur had been growing over the years.  Mr Udani pointed out that Chaim Even-Zohar and the Diamond Intelligence Briefing in particular seem to have an axe to grind against lab grown diamonds, given that Zohar acts as agent for earth mined diamonds and the huge impact an upsurge in lab grown diamond popularity could have on the earth mined diamond market.

Harshad Udani went on to say that whilst Zohar downplays his involvement, diverting media attention on this score, he apparently acts as agent for several earth-mined diamond companies, rendering his article for the Diamond Intelligent Briefing as anything but impartial.  Mr Udani indicated that Winsome Diamonds, as a Bombay Stock Exchange listed company, is required to make regular filings, none of which have revealed so much as a hint of impropriety.  Attempts by the company to respond to unsubstantiated media reports have largely been ignored, and so Winsome Diamonds has been forced to take action against those making defamatory accusations via official channels, in the wake of which the defamatory material has been removed.

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