THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Forest Department officials seized more than 400 kilograms of sandalwood worth around Rs 7 crore from Muttathara here on Monday. A few idols made of sandalwood were also seized.
The huge quantity of the precious wood was seized in five raids conducted simultaneously on five houses around 10.30 am and four persons were held.
Nakulan, Maniyan, Rajan and Thampi, on whose houses the raids were conducted, were those arrested. They were employed in making idols out of sandalwood and ivory, according to sources.
Five large idols of Ganapathy, Krishna and Ravana of one-and-a-half feet height, costing Rs 25 lakh each, apart from some small idols, pedestals and pieces of sandalwood were also seized.
According to sources, the raids were conducted following a tip-off received by District Forest Officer T Uma.
“They had no documents with them for keeping the idols though they claimed they had. When we checked, it was found that the validity of the documents ended in 2000 and 2002 but the sandalwood seized was fresh. Earlier also there were cases against Rajan and Thampi,” a source said.
The District Forest Officer said that the officials were deployed in advance so that the raid could start simultaneously at five locations.
“We started preparing for the raid as soon as I received the tip-off and we could plan well in advance. The sandalwood was brought from Marayur, Aryanad and Kulathupuzha in Kerala and from Karnataka,” Uma said.
The accused were presented before Judicial Magistrate (Forest Offences), Nedumangad in the evening.