Hyderabad

Is Hyderabad the new conduit for sandalwood smugglers?

Sandalwood seized at the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport earlier this month.

Sandalwood seized at the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport earlier this month.  

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Three cases detected at the city airport in past two weeks; 148kg of the fragrant wood seized from Sudanese nationals

It isn’t foreign currency, antique goods or even tiger hide that is attracting smugglers. These days, they seem to have found a penchant for sandalwood as it has emerged the most sought-after commodity in African countries.

Also known as ‘liquid gold’ in the underworld lingua-franca for its lucrative value, white sandalwood is used in traditional medicines, perfumes and pharmaceuticals.

The return journey of African tourists from the State capital has become a conduit for this contraband, leaving authorities at the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport, Shamshabad, here vexed.

Use in medicines

In the past two weeks, sleuths of the Central Industrial Security Force deployed at RGIA detected three such cases with the seizure of over 148 kg of the fragrant wood from three Sudanese nationals, including a woman. They were handed over the Customs department for further investigation.

Though the passengers managed to produce local purchase bills, they had no permission to carry the sandalwood from India, an official told The Hindu.

“In all three cases, the accused were Sudanese and had connecting flights to their destination in Sudan from Jeddah and Riyadh,” he said, adding that the main purpose of smuggling is to extract oil from the sandalwood and use it in medicines.

Revealing details about the seizures, the officer said that on November 11, CISF sleuths had detained a woman, identified as Farha Hassan Suliman Eldawy, while she was trying to smuggle 44 kg of sandalwood chips.

Upon entering the international departure gate, constable Rakesh Kumar profiled the passenger and got suspicious of her conduct and took her baggage to screen at X-BIS and found some doubtful images. On physical checking, they found sandalwood chips in two trolley bags.

Earlier on November 4 and October 25, CISF sleuths detained two Sudanese flyers, identified as Mustafa Mohammed and Ameer Hassan Adbul Hadir Osman. While Mustafa was carrying 99 kg of sandalwood in three bags, Osman was accused of smuggling 5.4 kg sandalwood stick.

Another officer, who interrogated the ‘smugglers’, said that India, especially parts of South India, is the largest market for sandalwood globally.

“The accused Sudanese said that sandalwood has great value in grey market in their country and it is mostly used in medicines,” he said, adding that the caught smugglers were “just couriers”.

Asked if Hyderabad has become a preferred destination for sandalwood smuggling, the officer said, “It is not just Hyderabad, airports across the country, especially Mumbai, are reporting similar cases.”

Recently, the authorities seized 600 kg of red sanders worth ₹3 crore from the cargo at Mumbai airport and in September, they had detected 1,156 kg sandalwood worth ₹8 crore being exported to China, apart from other small quantity cases.

Though sandalwood is not grown in both the Telugu States, it raises many questions on how it is being procured and where it is dumped.

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Printable version | Dec 7, 2019 8:38:23 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/is-hyderabad-the-new-conduit-for-sandalwood-smugglers/article29995192.ece

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