The citys customs department has seized three trucks carrying about 15 tonnes of red sanders worth Rs 3.5 crore concealed in dry grass from Kanhe Phata area in Maval taluka of Pune. Red sanders is a prohibited goods under Customs Act,1962.
It has been found that red sanders were brought to Pune,from where it was to be loaded to containers that would leave for Mumbai port and from their to foreign countries.
Eight persons,including truck drivers,cleaners and agents have been arrested. They have been identified as Jayaraman Ramaswamy (53),Balmurgan Chinniya (28),Balaji Sundaram (30),Govindan Ramaswamy (59),Vinayaga Moorthy (26),Vignesh Manoharan (21),all from Chennai,Suresh Krishnaswamy (30) of Chittur,Andhra Pradesh and Fahim Ibrahim Waghoo (31) of Mumbra,Mumbai.
On August 16,officers of the Customs (Preventive) received tip off that two trucks with red sanders were parked near Babbi Da Dhaba hotel near Kanhe Phata. The drivers were staying in the nearby hotel.
Officers went to the spot and questioned Jayaraman,Balmurgan,Balaji Sundaram and Govindan,alleged to be the drivers and cleaners of the two trucks. They told the officers that they were bringing the red sanders from Andhra Pradesh. The officials also seized fake bills that showed that the trucks were carrying mangoes and pappayas.
On August 17,Customs summoned the four suspects to their office in Pune for inquiry. The suspects revealed that they brought red sanders to Pune on the directions of suspect Suresh Krishnaswamy. Suspect Wagoo was to manage its export to foreign countries from Mumbai.
The officials then intercepted one more vehicle near Kanhe Phata. Suspects Krishnaswamy and Wagoo were found in the four-wheeler. More red sanders logs were found in the truck driven by Moorthy and Manoharan.
All eight accused were summoned to the Customs office. Probe revealed that Krishnaswamy is an agent allegedly linked to a red sanders smuggler in Andhra Pradesh. He plays a key role in transporting red sanders to Mumbai Port.
Wagoo is alleged to have illegally exported a huge consignment of red sanders from Mumbai Port in June 2013,for which he was paid about Rs 30 lakh. The court has granted all of them bail.
Pune to Mumbai ports & then to foreign lands
Probe shows that all the red sanders were being smuggled out of India through Mumbai ports. Red sanders grow in the hills of Kadapa,Chittoor and Nellore districts on the Andhra Pradesh-Tamil Nadu border. It is an endangered species,protected under Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) list. Export-import has been banned after 1994. It has huge demand in foreign countries and is used in making medicines,facial creams,musical instruments and sex pills.