The Coimbatore city police on Wednesday, arrested 18 persons in connection with the theft of around 8.5 tonnes of red sanders that were seized by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence and kept in containers at the Container Corporation of India, in Irugur.
The burglary took place on the night of April 24, when elections were held across the State.
According to the commi-ssioner of police, A K Visw-anathan, Punniyamurthy, a notorious sandalwood smuggler, along with a ga-ng of 20, armed with machetes, sickles and wooden clubs, entered the CCI complex in Irugur, where they were alleged to have threatened a driver to ram his truck on three containers of the red wood and force them open. They then wiped out the containers and loaded the seized timber in separate vehicles before fleeing the spot.
Following a complaint from the supervisor of the CCI, Sivakumar, the Singanallur police formed six special police teams and started investigations besides launching a hunt for Puniyamurthy and his gang.
After intensive inquiries and investigations with suspects in Andhra Pradesh and Chennai, police zeroed in on Punniyamurthy (52), a notorious smuggler from Vadavalli.