Customs officials seize the logs worth Rs.86,000 from three Chinese nationals.
Small logs of red sanders weighing 89 kg were seized from three Chinese nationals at the Nedumbassery International Airport here early on Saturday morning. The Air Intelligence Unit of the Customs Department here seized the logs worth around Rs.86,000 from Sheng Welping, Zheng Kaihong, and Xiao Fuyao.
Customs officials said the three foreigners had arrived in Bangalore on tourist visa and made their way to Kochi. They were scheduled to depart for Malaysia by a flight. The red sanders were kept in six bags in their checked-in baggage.
All three men had visited the country at least three times before. Customs officials are unsure whether they had smuggled red sanders on their previous trips as well. Department officials said that the foreigners did not speak English and thus, could not be interrogated. They were asked to pay a penalty of Rs.20,000 and the red sanders were confiscated by Customs.
This is the second seizure of red sanders at the airport this month from Chinese nationals. Three persons from Fujian province of China were detained earlier this month with 110 kg of red sanders packed in their luggage. The weight of the bags had alerted the security staff to the smuggling operation. Customs officials had then suspected that a Delhi-based racket was behind the smuggling of red sanders from India to China through Nedumbassery airport. The carriers allegedly made Rs.30,000 per consignment of 40 kg of red sanders. The Customs Department is investigating whether the persons arrested on Saturday are linked to the same racket.
The seized red sanders were allegedly procured from Karnataka. Along with its many other uses, red sanders are also an ingredient in high-end cosmetics in China. Customs officials suspect that the smuggled wood may be for use in making cosmetics.
Customs Deputy Commissioner S.A.S. Navaz said the seizure was facilitated by the team effort of the department officials, airport security staff, and personnel of the Central Industrial Security Force.
“This time also the timely help of the CIAL staff and CISF allowed Customs to effect the seizure. This seizure is an excellent example of the increased coordination among the various security agencies working in the Cochin International Airport,” he said. The department will investigate the incident further to uncover more links in the operation.