Four months after the forest and police department officials busted an international smuggling racket and seized 17 tonnes of red sanders from a defunct leather factory godown in Minnur near Ambur, the forest department personnel attached to Ambur Range arrested the owner of the godown on Wednesday.
R L Manoharan (40) had been frequently changing his location in Kerala and Andhra Pradesh for the last four months to evade arrest. “He tipped off two of his associates, who are the kingpins of the international smuggling racket. We are trying to track the duo who are residents of Red Hills and Koyambedu in Chennai,” said another official on condition of anonymity.
Manoharan was produced before the JM Court in Ambur and remanded to the Vellore Prison . “We will seek his custody for further interrogation,” said a forest officer. The smuggling of red sander logs came to light on September 14 last year following a late night raid carried out by the officials of the revenue and police department in the godown. The officials raided the godown after being alerted by villagers. Acting on the information, the police along with revenue officials broke open the godown but found nothing except few bags of vegetables and sand. Nonetheless, the police flushed the godown and found 706 heartwoods of red sander trees, weighing 17 tonnes and worth around `1 crore.
The preliminary inquiry revealed the logs were being smuggled out of the country. The police also found a logbook that indicated smuggled from April 28, 2013. “Over 200 tonnes of heartwood of red sanders worth not less than ` 15 crore had been smuggled from here between April and November 2013. We strongly believe the precious logs would have been smuggled to China, Thailand or Japan,” said an official.