Based on information that smugglers from Kodagu district have been transporting timber illegally to Kerala, the Kodagu Forest Department is zeroing on those accused of being involved in the crime.

According to information received here on Saturday, certain timber traders in Kodagu have been accused of misusing transportation permits issued by the Forest Department to shift rosewood from the government depot at Thithimathi in the Virajpet forest division by adding private timber (also rosewood) outside the depot. They have been finding easy passage at the Kodagu-Kerala border check-post at Tolpatti near Kutta, Kodagu, thanks to alleged connivance of forest personnel.

Two suspended

Two forest guards have been suspended since Friday by Kodagu Conservator of Forests Millo Tago in this regard. Mr. Tago was not available for comment.

Sources said the Range Forest Officer at Ponnampet, whose complicity in the crime was reportedly established, has been “relieved” of his job after the incident came to light three days ago. His residence has been locked.

Virajpet division Deputy Conservator of Forests Kantaraj confirmed the news of the illegal trade and told The Hindu that all information gathered would be furnished to the Conservator of Forests.

According to a source, a senior official of the rank of Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests would arrive in Kodagu to verify the matter.

Modus operandi

A trader in Virajpet town, who got his firm registered with the Sales Tax Department for carrying out pepper and coffee trade, learnt that as many as 11 loads of timber were transported to Kerala by taking advantage of his sales tax registration number to pass through Tolpatti.

The person who had connived with the smugglers by allowing misuse of the sales tax registration number is believed to have agreed to pay a fine of Rs. 9 lakh, on the condition that his name is not revealed to the police.

The role of certain officials of the Forest Department too could come under the scanner in this case, sources said. Criminal cases could be registered against timber traders accused of being involved in the case.

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