The seizure of logs of red sanders from the city points to both international smuggling links and possibly even official connivance
When forest department authorities found a dump of red sanders in a farmhouse at Shamshabad last week, it was believed to be an isolated incident.
What has now emerged is that it was neither a stray case nor localised in nature, but had international links.
Authorities arrested five Chinese nationals when they allegedly tried to smuggle logs of red sanders to Hong Kong through a courier agency the previous day.
Organised gangs are illegally procuring logs of red sanders from Kadapa, Chittoor and Nellore districts and smuggling it to different parts of the country and later to other countries. Though scores of such smuggling rackets were busted in the State, its key operators had not been caught so far.
This is the second instance of red sanders seizure reported from in and around the city in the last eight months. In the first case, reported last November, authorities intercepted two vehicles at Rangeela dhaba in Maheshwaram on an intelligence input and found logs of red sanders in them.
Acting on the confession of the trio travelling in the vehicles, police raided a farmhouse in Shamshabad and found a huge dump of the logs worth over Rs. 2 crore. Months passed, but investigators failed to find out who hid the logs in the farmhouse, where they originated and who were the intended recipients.
All they could establish was that the farmhouse owner was a housewife who had rented it out to one Sadashiva Raju, who disappeared soon after he learnt of the raid. Eventually, officials fo-und that Raju had been held earlier, on the same charge.
The arrest of five Chinese, along with four employees of the courier agency, for trying to smuggle red sanders to Hong Kong is compelling investigators to draw links between the two cases.
Questions remain unanswered. If Raju was responsible for storing 25 tonnes of the wood in the farmhouse, how did he manage to bring them to the city from across three districts, crossing several check posts?
Were there organised gangs backing him, or did he receive official help?