In what is being touted as a major bust, the Kadapa police in Andhra Pradesh in a special operation in neighboring Karnataka's Sampengahalli have seized 119 red sanders logs weighing three tonnes on Saturday. The rare logs are estimated to be worth Rs 5 crore in the market.
In a press release, the police said that they arrested 51-year-old Syed Mujeeb, an international red sanders smuggler, and his aide, 36-year-old Gayas Ahmed, and seized as many as four vehicles. Mujeeb is said to be accused in as many as 49 criminal cases.
According to Kadapa Additional SP Laxminarayana, the operation was carried out following a tip off from another smuggler after he was caught during a vehicle check on the Rayachoti-Rajampet road near the stateās border.
ASP Laxmi Narayana also told the media that during the raids on the godown where the smuggled logs were kept, allies of the accused indulged in stone pelting. Some police vehicles were damaged in the incident.
The Kadapa police said that Mujeeb hailed from Katigenapalli village in Hosapet Taluk in Karnataka state and was involved in illegal red sanders smuggling since 2009. Investigators said that he spread his network across Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and his home state of Karnataka. There were also several cases booked against him in the districts of Kadapa and Chittoor in Andhra.
Red sanders are a rare kind of sandalwood (Pterocarpus santalinus) that grows only in the Palakonda and Seshachalam hills, with some trees found in isolated areas of Kurnool, Prakasam, Anantapur and Nellore districts in Andhra Pradesh.
The precious wood has a huge demand abroad, especially in China, Myanmar, Japan and other countries of East Asia, as it is used in traditional medicines and woodcraft.
The Andhra government often seizes several tonnes of logs every year during combing operations by special forces in the forests, which it auctions later after getting permission from the central government.