Gang of smugglers drove away with mini-van containing seized wood worth Rs. 17 lakh

Two policemen including a senior inspector were suspended on Saturday after a gang of smugglers drove away with a seized mini-van loaded with three tons of red sanders, worth Rs. 17 lakh, from a police station in Vengal near Periyapalayam two days ago.

The suspended policemen are S. Madhavan, inspector, Vengal police, Tiruvallur district, and head constable of the station, K. Ganesan, who was in charge of the station when the theft took place.

A portion of the loot was recovered by a special police team from an abandoned mini-van on Janapannchatiram Koot Road, a State highway, in Karanodai near Sholavaram, on Saturday.

The police were able to recover 75 logs from the 139 stolen by the gang from the police station. “We have detained six suspects and they have been interrogated. Alerts have been sent to all check posts and godowns,” said a police officer.  

It was during a surprise raid on September 29, the police and forest officials from Tiruvallur seized 3.5 tons (139 logs) of red sanders from a private godown in Vaniya Chatiram village.

Seven persons including the owner of the godown, S. Ravi, a resident of Edapalayam village, were arrested and lodged in Puzhal prison while the seized consignment and vehicles, including three mini-vans, were taken to Vengal police station to be produced in the Tiruvallur court.

Around 3 a.m. on Friday, three persons, Saravanan, Arun and Shanmugam, used duplicate keys and drove away with the mini-van containing the contraband.

The police station was thinly staffed as many policemen were away on duty in Sholavaram and therefore, the lone constable on duty could not go after the suspects.

However, three km away from the police station, in Vadamadurai village, the mini-van broke down. The suspects then loaded the wood on to another vehicle and drove away but abandoned it mid-way. The abandoned mini-van was later found by the police, with 75 logs in it.

It is not known why the gang abandoned the vehicle or what they did with the rest of the loot. Investigation is on.

Red sanders is listed among protected species and its sale and export are banned in the country.

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