TIRUPATI: In a revelation that has sounded alarm bells for the police, the interrogation of a notorious red sanders smuggler has thrown light on the new route taken by the smugglers to transport the precious red sanders from Chittoor district to other countries. The north-eastern states have now become a major hub for the smuggling activity, police said.
Investigators now know that the smugglers are taking to road route from their traditional sea route to transport the logs. The smugglers used to transport red sanders through sea ports to other countries. The ports at Chennai, Kochi, Kandla, Mumbai and Visakhapatnam were used for smuggling the logs either directly to China or to Dubai and from there to China. However, the customs and Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) had in the recent past busted the smuggling racket and seized good amounts of red sanders while being transported from ports.
With this, the smugglers have changed the route and are now preferring road route for transporting the logs. “This they are able to do as the police of several states other than AP and Tamil Nadu are not aware of the red sanders smuggling,” a senior police official said, adding that personnel manning checkposts even within the state could not identify red sanders. This came to light after the interrogation of S Vikram Mehendi alias Vikram of Delhi on Monday.
According to officials, the smugglers are now transporting the red sanders through road routes. The logs, after being chopped in the forests of Seshachalam, are shifted to temporary godowns at Uravakonda and other places in Anantapur and from there to Bangalore and other places. Containers, lorries, SUVs, and even ambulances and milk tankers are being used for this purpose to avoid police and forest checkposts. From there, the logs are transported out of the state to Raipur and from there to Kolkata and enter north-east. “The logs are transported through Assam, Mizoram and Manipur and finally reach Nepal or Myanmar and from there to their final destination,” the officer said.
Officials said the value of the red sander logs doubles at each and every point of its stocking. “A load of logs which might value Rs 1 crore in the Seshachalam forests will increase by almost 10 times by the time it reaches its final destination and that is why smugglers do not mind shelling out huge amounts to bribe personnel manning the checkposts,” the official said.
Officials said once out of the state, there is no stopping for the loads to reach the destinations as police of other states are not aware of the smuggling activity. “A smuggler confessed that just one out of 100 loads of logs that he transported was caught and that was also released after the personnel at the checkpost were bribed,” the officer recalled.
Meanwhile, with the officials coming to know about the road route and also some names of kingpins based at Mumbai, Delhi and Dubai, efforts are on to nab them.