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Delhi is sandalwood smuggling capital

Delhi is sandalwood smuggling capital
This is alarming but true. The national capital has become a transit point for red sandalwood smugglers: about 30 tonnes of sandalwood, worth Rs 6 crore, has already been seized in the last 30 days from different locations in Delhi, all to be smuggled into China.

The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), which is probing the active nexus unearthed in the capital, had made a seizure of about 16 tonnes in November, in Okhla, south Delhi, followed by the recovery of 10 tonnes on Thursday in a joint operation with Delhi police in Janak Puri.

‘We identified a person named Gautam Kohli, who owns the godown from where the goods were seized. He was questioned on Friday in connection with the case and we are hopeful that we will find Hemant Gandhi, whose name has emerged as the main perpetrator, soon. He is believed to be in transport business,’ the DRI officials said, adding, ‘We suspect that Kohli’s brother operates from China and he may have helped Hemant in getting custom clearances for consignments sent there.’

DRI officials said despite a ban on its export, sandalwood is being smuggled out of the country, specifically to China. ‘The wood is smuggled out by a politically connected mafia in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. Our seizures are not even 1 per cent of the total quantity being smuggled,’ a senior DRI official said. According to the official, in this recent seizure in Delhi  red sandalwood was shown as ordinary wood and was cleared by custom officials.

Sources said red sandalwood is smuggled to Delhi from Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu from where it is sent to China via Nepal. ‘The perpetrators of this nexus use all kinds of transport – road, sea and air – to smuggle and the involvement of custom officials can’t be ruled out,’ the sources added.

In 2007, a massive smuggling racket, in which security and customs officials from all three countries were suspected to be involved, was unearthed in Nepal with the interception of a truck carrying 11 tonne of the precious wood. DRI seizures in ports across the country, as well as in Delhi, has shown a marked increase in the last four years.
Mohit Sharma

Mohit Sharma

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