The Chittoor police on Wednesday arrested two suspected red sanders smuggling operatives from Tamil Nadu and seized about two tonnes of logs worth over ₹3 crore in the international market, at Cherlopalle Cross on the Chittoor-Bengaluru NH.
The police also seized three SUVs and a goods vehicle worth ₹50 lakh. Six other accused managed to escape from the spot, the police said.
Addressing a press conference here, Superintendent of Police Y. Rishant Reddy and Deputy SP N. Sudhakar Reddy produced M. Perumal (33) and C. Velu (38) of Tiruvannamalai district of Tamil Nadu, and the seized property.
As part of the investigation into the seizure of an ambulance carrying red sanders logs on May 25, a special team led by Circle Inspector (Rural East) K. Balaiah was conducting checks on the National Highway, where the three SUVs and a goods vehicle were intercepted. Noticing the police, the inmates tried to escape, and the police apprehended two of them.
Preliminary investigation revealed that Perumal, one of the regular suppliers of the red sanders, was reportedly wanted by the Ambur police of Tamil Nadu in a murder case and 11 other criminal cases. He was said to have entered the contraband trade in 2014. Their modus operandi was to arrange the felling of red sanders in the Seshachalam forests of Tirupati, Annamayya, and Kadapa districts and supply the stocks to the “receivers” in Chennai. The duo had reportedly named three such receivers as Thanji, Balaji, and Don.
The SP said that special teams were formed to probe the operations of the red sanders syndicate and track down the elusive operators and the three receivers. The police observed that unlike using old lorries, trucks, and SUVs for smuggling activities in the past, the accused were now using high-end vehicles to hoodwink the police.
The duo was booked under various Sections of the IPC and AP Forest Act 2016, and sent for remand.