Three persons, including two tribal youth, were arrested on Friday on charges of smuggling red sanders worth several lakh rupees.
The trio were part of a group of more than 10 members which felled over 15 well-grown red sander trees in the Banavaram Reserve Forest in Arcot Range in Vellore Forest Division during the wee hours of Friday.
Sources said around midnight on Thursday, a team of forest guards spotted a group of 10 to 15 persons felling red sander trees inside Banavaram, in the Banavaram Reserve Forest. On seeing the forest personnel on night patrol, they abandoned the red sander logs and fled.
The forest personnel alerted Arcot ranger M Vijay. Information was also received that the gang had boarded a van bearing an Andhra Pradesh registration number.
The ranger rushed to the Maruthalam junction and stopped the vehicle around 4.15 am on Friday. He arrested three persons, who were identified as Kesavalu (30) of Chittoor in AP, Vellaiyan (21), and Sivaraj (25) of Jawadhu Hills, and seized around 60 kg of red sander logs, said an official.
On interrogation, the trio disclosed that they had been engaged by an agent to cut down the trees. They had abandoned a major portion of the trees that were chopped down inside the forest. “Several of their associates had got down from the vehicle along the way. Most of them were from Jawadhu Hills,” said an official, quoting one of the arrested persons.The department launched an investigation to track down the entire network. “The trio said they had chosen to fell trees in Vellore instead of AP as security had been beefed up across the border over the Telangana issue and vehicles were being checked,” he added.
The trees that were felled in the jungle weighed around 1,500 kg and worth around `6 lakh. The entire amount was seized, said another forest official. A case has been registered, and the trio was produced before the Sholinghur court, which remanded them to the Vellore Central Prison for Men.