VELLORE: Chennai appears to be the epicentre of the multi-crore red sanders mafia, with seven of the the 20 persons arrested - by the Andhra Pradesh police as part of its nation-wide crackdown - based in the city.
The Andhra police’s operation that was launched in June, led to the arrest of some of the key players in the international smuggling network operating from West Bengal, Mizoram, Manipur, Delhi, Bangalore, Chittoor and Chennai.
“Six of the seven arrested smugglers with roots in Tamil Nadu are based in Chennai. This excludes the recently arrested person (Rajendran alias Selvaraj) with the BMW car (TN 18 K 2277). All of them were carrying out their activities with ease,” said a police official privy to the countrywide drive against red sander smugglers. Selvaraj is said to be related to a politician and lives in Royapuram, Chennai.
The smugglers based in Chennai have a close-knit network with their counterparts in Dubai, China, Japan, he said, adding, “They have also been smuggling huge consignments of red sanders to neighbouring countries like Nepal and Myanmar by road with the help of their counterparts in West Bengal, Mizoram and Manipur. Many of smugglers based in Chittoor are working for the international smugglers based in Chennai,” he added.
On Saturday, the Andhra police detained three more - Singaravel (59) of Washermanpet in Chennai, Nagaraj (38) of Chennai and Samuel (40) of Manipur - under the State’s Prevention Detention Act 1986. “They were already under arrest. Actually, they were caught red-handed when taking samples of red sander logs felled by the mafia to share them with their customers on the international black market on July 21 in Chittoor. A SUV was confiscated from them,” said the police officer.
“The list of key operatives in the mafia is humongous. Most of them are from Chennai, but many have gone underground, fearing arrest,” the official said.