Six tonnes of stolen red sanders and Rs. 18 lakh recovered

The Coimbatore City Police, on Wednesday, claimed to have cracked the red sanders theft case, in which nine tonnes of the wood, worth nearly Rs. 4 crore, were stolen from the Container Corporation of India’s inland container depot at Irugur near here during the late hours of April 24.

Addressing a press conference, City Police Commissioner A.K. Viswanathan said that a 16-member gang had been arrested and six tonnes of the stolen red sanders and Rs. 18 lakh in cash recovered. A hunt was on for a few others as well and the remaining quantity of the wood would be recovered shortly, he added.

Terming this as among the most challenging of cases in the past two years, he said that six special teams were constituted under two Deputy Commissioners — Pravesh Kumar (Law and Order) and K. Sukumaran (Crime). They began looking into gangs involved in smuggling of red sanders as far as in Andhra Pradesh. The teams zeroed in on a gang led by S. Punniamurthy (52) of Vadavalli, who was involved in several cases of smuggling and robbery.

The gang had tried to sell the red sanders in small quantities in Vellore, Krishnagiri and Tiruvannamalai. They were also attempting to sell this material to foreign buyers as it had huge value in Japan and China where it was used as medicine and in making furniture. Further, the gang was trying to move some of the stolen goods to Kerala through two trucks.

The police intercepted the trucks near Sulur and apprehended the driver and cleaner. Upon questioning them, the rest of the gang was also arrested, the Commissioner said. “We suspect this gang to be involved in several other cases as well. The special teams are continuing with their investigation,” added Mr. Viswanathan. The police are now probing as to whether the gang had any inside help. The red sanders were originally seized on January 21 by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, which had stored them in three containers in the depot. The gang, armed with deadly weapons, had forced a truck driver to ram his vehicle into one of the containers, forcing it open. The Singanallur Police had registered a case.

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