Visakhapatnam: After Chennai, Mumbai and Tuticorin, smugglers used Vizag port to ship red sanders felled in the Seshachalam forests.
There are at least three cases that are being investigated by the directorage of revenue intelligence sleuths here, who confiscated containers, carrying red sanders.
But there are also reports that many such consignments get past unnoticed. The role of customs sleuths is also being probed. In one incident the shipper declared the cargo was granite and in another incident, refractory mortar was declared; in both cases red sanders were filled in the containers destined for Malaysia and Hong Kong.
Interestingly in two of these three cases, containers containing red sander logs came from Rourkela and Cuttack in Odisha to the Vizag port, which shows that smugglers hoodwinked many checkposts. In another case, the container was from Chennai.
Due to increased vigilance and tightening of security at Mumbai, Chennai and Tuticorin ports, that were once safe havens for red sanders smugglers, the activity has shifted to Vizag. However, the vigilance and DRI sleuths are able to crack only certain cases.
The first such case was detected in May 2013, where DRI officials seized 16 tonnes of red sanders from a container that was about to be loaded into a Malaysia bound vessel. While the container has a capacity of carrying 28 tonnes the Rourkela-based shipper had declared 18 tonnes of refractory mortar as cargo. When opened, the container had 400 logs of red sanders weighing approximately 16 tonnes.
The container was sealed at the premises of the shipper in Rourkela in Odisha. In such cases if the cargo is stuffed in the premises of the consignee, the central excise sleuths have to seal the container after verifying the cargo. But after the container reached the Vizag port terminal, on a tip off DRI sleuths stopped it and found red sander logs.
Red sanders are smuggled to Malaysia and Dubai. From there it is transported to China, some other West Asian countries, where sandalwood is widely used for making musical instruments, medicines and also furnishing homes of the rich.