HYDERABAD: The spotlight is as much on red sanders smugglers as on the police in the wake of the Seshachalam encounter. Even as the controversy over whether woodcutters killed in the forest were smugglers rages on, a cursory glance at police records — on the real brains behind the smuggling — reveals shocking facts.
Take the case of Laxman, a notorious smuggler currently behind bars in the Rajahmundry jail. A Tamilian and a native of Moreh in Manipur, he had migrated to Chennai years back to work as a ‘coolie’. Fast forward to 2013. He was found to be wearing shirts, which cost nothing less than Rs 25,000 each, driving a BMW one day, Mercedes the other day and several other SUVs — in fact, whatever caught his fancy. He also had a live-in partner, a Bengali model, in Kolkata. He was referred to, in his rogue circles, as ‘Jr Veerappan’ and ‘Don.’ His luck ran out in July, 2013 when the police finally nabbed him.
His ancestors had settled in Burma but later due to local problems, they migrated to Manipur along with some 20,000 Tamil families. While working as a coolie in Chennai, Laxman came in contact with small-time smugglers and within no time, learnt the tricks of the trade. By 2013, he had a gang of at least 40 members and made about Rs 100 crore through red sanders smuggling. The AP police tracked him in Kolkata where he was always seen in the company of models and heroines and surrounded by private security personnel.
He has now been booked for 24 offences. Laxman is not alone. There are others like him. But the one who comes close to the ‘Don’ is Moosa, a former inspector of the Tamil Nadu police. Moosa was dismissed from service and arrested too. But he is now out on bail. A close friend of Shahul Hameed of Dubai, they ran the smuggling racket together.
“Moosa has several contacts in the TN police and is also an adviser to big smugglers. He is an accused in the Shanker Raman murder case too and often visits Malaysia, Singapore and Dubai to meet red sanders smugglers,’’ a police official said.
According to the AP police, Moosa has been in the business for 15 years. He is the main receiver in Chennai and transports the logs to China via Dubai. It is estimated that he earned more than Rs 50 crore. At the time of his arrest last year, Moosa ran into a house when a police team spotted him and began shouting that he was being kidnapped!
The Other Smugglers
Selvaraj: A native of Tamil Nadu, has a penchant for blue BMWs. In the red sanders business for 15 years, he was in the habit of moving in a blue BMW with two more BMWs following him. He is worth Rs 100 crore. When the Chittoor police tried to arrest him, he hid in a five-star hotel. He played a cat and mouse game for eight days and was nabbed when he tried to escape by wearing a burqa. He is involved in 18 cases.
Kollam Gangi Reddy: Absconding since May last year, this native of Pullampet in Kadapa district is involved in 27 cases and has a red corner notice against him. He was apprehended in Mauritius recently and efforts are on to bring him back.
Riyaz: A native of Katiganahalli in Karnataka, he has been involved in smuggling for 12 years. He used to receive logs from local smugglers and transport them to China. Rated as a ‘very dangerous person’ by the police, he’s worth Rs 50 crore and is involved in 24 cases. He is currently lodged in the Rajahmundry jail.
Vikram: A native of Delhi, but settled in Rangoon, Vikram has been in the business for seven years and is the main receiver of logs from Chennai and transports them to China via the north east. He is said to be worth over Rs 100 crore and has godowns in Moreh, Kolkata and Myanmar. Involved in 20 cases, he has been arrested by the Chittoor police.
Nagarajan: In the business for eight years, he is the main supplier of sanders logs to the North East. He is said to be worth nearly Rs 100 crore. ‘’He is a womaniser and has the habit of taking rooms in five-star hotels in Chennai. It was due to this that we planned our operation and nabbed him,’’ a police official said, adding he was involved in 14 cases.
Mastan Vali: A native of Kurnool district, he was a petty businessman before getting into red sanders smuggling about 10 years ago. He has big interest in the film industry and has made several crores. He is also currently in jail.
Hamid Khan: In the business for 15 years, he has assets worth Rs 100 crore. Originally from Katiganahalli, he had settled in Bangalore. Police joined as workers under him to arrest him. He is involved in 10 cases and is currently lodged in the Rajahmundry jail.
Samuel: In business for eight years, he is also said to have made Rs 100 crore. This native of Moreh in Manipur was apprehended at a hotel in Chennai.
They’ve a penchant for bmws, MODELS
These smugglers are each worth anything between `50 crore and `100 crore and live lavishly. Laxman drives high-end cars and goes around with models while Selvaraj has a penchant for blue BMWs. Nagarajan, a womaniser, is a five-star frequenter.