It was indeed a prize catch for the Forest Department, but the voluminous information that is coming its way is sending officials into a tizzy. T. Venkata Reddy, the notorious red sanders smuggler on the run, who was apprehended recently, has left trails from Chennai to Rajasthan.

He was arrested by a team led by G. Srinivasulu, Divisional Forest Officer (Tirupati Wildlife Management Circle), when he arrived at a temple in Renigunta to offer prayers.

It may be hard to believe that the elusive smuggler was on the run for over 17 years, but it is a known fact that the noose started tightening around him only in the recent past.

In 1989, Venkata Reddy was a lorry driver cum cleaner in Yerravaripalem area. He also had 12 acres of land in his native village, in which he was growing crop in an acre. He started his ‘rosy career’ as a smuggler in the mid-1990s and went on to earn sumptuously, but he decided to lie low during 2001-2004 owing to bad health. When financial pressure mounted, he resorted to his good old profession and again started making money.

His contacts as a lorry driver helped him penetrate through hitherto-unknown areas and make friends with tree cutters, especially in Kadapa, Nandyal and Kurnool areas. Upon receiving orders, he used to supply logs to the notorious master supplier Venkatadri Naidu in Tiruvallur and Red Hills near Chennai, from where the precious wood crossed the country’s shores. On the other side, he supplies logs to Hyderabad, from where they are ferried to places as far as Aurangabad, Delhi and undisclosed locations in Rajasthan.

Preventive Detention Act has been invoked in this case, as the department expects Venkata Reddy to help them unearth many more names. Even while hoping to achieve a breakthrough in the form of new smuggling locations and unknown names of smugglers, they are at the same time wary of the possibility of the stakeholders going into the dark, post this arrest.