Chennai

DRI crackdown nets huge haul of red sanders, idols

Sleuths of the DRI on Sunday intercepted two containers that were cleared for export to the United Arab Emirates and seized 36 tonnes of red sanders worth Rs. 16.2 crore, rare idols, handicrafts and artefacts.

While one of the containers was intercepted at Chennai Port hours before it was to be loaded into a ship bound for Jebel Ali Port, the other was found in a locked godown at Ayanambakkam on the city outskirts. A gang of suspected smugglers who were operating from the godown fled the scene after they sensed trouble, DRI sources said. Since the seizures included idols and artefacts, investigators have decided to rope in experts from the Archaeological Survey of India. Preliminary enquiries revealed that the red sanders were smuggled from Andhra Pradesh and meant for export to the Middle East and South-East Asian countries from where they would finally land in China, the largest international market for the wood, the agency said in a statement.

Containers diverted

Following a tip-off that a gang had planned to smuggle huge loads of red sanders to Dubai, the DRI formed several teams to step up surveillance on container movement in and around Chennai. Investigators gathered a specific input that two containers loaded with sewage covers that were sealed and cleared for export were diverted to the godown while in transit from the Container Freight Station (CFS) to the Chennai Port. “We suspect that the accused emptied the containers after tampering with the seal and loaded them with the red sanders, idols, artefacts etc.

“Soon after intercepting one container at the seaport, our officers stormed the godown on the Vanagaram-Ambattur Road that was found locked with the container laden on a trailer inside. Cutting machines, drillers and equipment required to manipulate containers were found in the godown,” a DRI official said.

Antique stone idols, including one of Lord Vishnu, ivory statues, rare wooden carvings, walking sticks made of snake bones etc were among the seizures. “These items are of high historical value and cultural relevance. The possibility of some idols being stolen from temples cannot be ruled out. We are seeking the expertise of the ASI as part of the investigation,” the official said.

While inquiring into the details of the consignor/consignee, DRI officials were probing antecedents of the persons associated with the godown. The equipment found on the premises indicated that the smugglers were operating for quite sometime.

Parrying questions on the possibility of the suspected smugglers exporting containers loaded with contraband substances on earlier occasions, the official said once containers were sealed by the Customs at the CFS terminal and cleared for export, law enforcing agencies would intercept them only when there was specific intelligence about smuggling.


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Printable version | Jun 15, 2021 1:35:29 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/DRI-crackdown-nets-huge-haul-of-red-sanders-idols/article14482378.ece

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