CHENNAI: Over 18 tonnes of red sanders worth Rs 9.17 crore, was seized by Chennai Customs from a container meant for export to Jebel Ali port, Dubai, at the entry gate of Kattupulli Port and a secluded godown in Kundrathur, according to Rajan Chaudhary, Commissioner of Customs (Preventive) Chennai.
Based on specific information that red sanders is likely to be smuggled out of the country, a special check was conducted by the customs department on the movement of incoming trucks into the port area, Chaudhary said. During the check, the team noticed a container truck parked before the entry gate. Seeing the officials, the driver fled under the cover of darkness.
The container was opened and on examination, it was found that some red coloured wooden logs suspected to be red sanders were stuffed inside. The officials, while searching the cabin of the truck, found a forged shipping bill wherein the goods were declared as ‘car accessories and parts’ meant for export to Jebel Ali port, Dubai.
Since the goods were not declared, the container along with the truck, was brought to Chennai Port for further examination. Forest officials were called, who certified the logs in the container as Red Sanders (Pterocarpus Santalinus), totally weighing 11.16 metric tonnes worth Rs 5.57 crore.
On further investigation, it was noticed that the truck registration number was different than the one mentioned in the RC Book. It was later found that the truck was sold and resold many times. Efforts are being made to trace the present owner.
Further investigations revealed that the shipping liner had not verified the KYC documents of the exporter before processing the shipping documents. The staff concerned, of the shipping liner has been arrested, Chaudhary said.
On a follow-up action to trace the godown from where the goods were loaded in the container, the team zeroed in on a secluded godown near Kundrathur located in the outskirts of the City.
A search was carried out in the godown. On entering, it was noticed that there were goods covered by tarpaulin and husk sacks. On removing the same, red sanders weighing 7.34 metric tonnes worth Rs 3.6 crore was found.
The owner of the godown was summoned who stated that he had leased out the vacant land to a person from Kanchipuram who had constructed the shed on his own. Based on the address available in the lease agreement, the tenant was searched at his given address in Kanchipuram but he was not found there as the address was fake. Further efforts are on to trace him.