CRIME WATCH: Sandalwood jail for trader

CRIME WATCH: Sandalwood jail for trader – a business that doesn’t smell too good ?!!

Sandalwood seized near the China-Himachal border - after criminal activity follows terrorism ?!! (TT)

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT

Siliguri, Sept. 10: A Calcutta-based businessman and his employee were today sent to jail by a local court here for their alleged involvement in a sandalwood smuggling racket.

Officials of the directorate of revenue intelligence produced Jiwan Behal, who runs a chemical manufacturing unit at Jessore Road in Dumdum, and Gokul Saha before additional chief judicial magistrate of Siliguri Bibhuti Khesang.

“The judge remanded them in jail custody. They will be produced again on September 16,” said Ratan Banik, the standing counsel of the central government who is representing the DRI.

According to DRI sources, red sandalwood, which has a huge market in China, is being brought from states like Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka and smuggled to China through Nepal for making decorative items. Smugglers often use the porous border at Panitanki in Naxalbari block, around 40km from here to take their consignments to Nepal — which is evident from regular seizures by the DRI and the SSB personnel on the border.

“Investigations and seizures have revealed that Behal and his associates used the chemical manufacturing unit to store the sandalwood logs and also to camouflage their smuggling activities. The logs were loaded into trucks bound for Nepal,” a source said.

On September 3, the DRI officials intercepted two trucks at Ghoshpukur on NH31, around 20km from here, and seized 14,965kg of red sandalwood that were on way to China via Nepal. The drivers of both the vehicles were arrested.

The arrested drivers told the interrogators about Behal’s involvement in running.

“The Siliguri DRI then informed their counterparts in Calcutta, who in association with Dumdum police, arrested Behal and Saha, from Jessore Road on September 3,” Banik said. “Next day, the duo were produced in the metropolitan magistrate’s court in Calcutta who remanded them in jail custody.”

On Wednesday, a team of DRI officials reached Calcutta and prayed for the duo’s transit remand. The two were brought here and presented at the court today, Banik said. “During the arrest, the police and the DRI officials raided Behal’s chemical manufacturing unit and seized more sandalwood logs.”

Two ITBP officers have been arrested on Tuesday for alleged collusion with smugglers of red sandalwood in a Himachal Pradesh pocket along the China border.

EARLIER

Sandalwood trail to China – where crime does not pay ?!!

FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY MANJEET SEHGAL WARRIOR & PTI

Shimla, Sept. 9: Two ITBP officers have been arrested for alleged collusion with smugglers of red sandalwood in a Himachal Pradesh pocket along the China border fast becoming a safe haven for such crimes.

Assistant commander Sukhdev Singh Rana and inspector Manmohan Singh were picked up on Tuesday after police in Lahaul and Spiti district grilled two persons caught with a sandalwood consignment headed to China on August 24.

“So far, we have arrested six people in the case. Two of them are Sukhdev Singh Rana (posted at the ITBP Samdo post) and Manmohan Singh, an inspector,” Lahaul and Spiti superintendent of police S.R. Rana said. The officer duo had allegedly allowed two trucks loaded with the rare wood to roll across the border.

The ITBP top brass in Delhi have taken a serious view of the incident as it is the first time that its officers have been arrested on such criminal charges. The force has decided to take “strict disciplinary action” against the duo.

“The headquarters is keeping track of the case. Strict action will be taken after both the police investigation and an inquiry by the force are completed,” ITBP spokesperson Deepak Pandey said in Delhi yesterday. The officers have been booked under the Prevention of Corruption Act and for forgery under the CrPC.

The gang is also suspected to have spirited out leopard skin, the demand for which is high in China, the misgivings stoked by the fact that one of the accused is a known smuggler of such hides. The police claim not to have found proof of that but Wildlife Crime Control Bureau sources said they were gathering proof.

“So far, we have not found any evidence of leopard skin smuggling but the investigation is still on,” police chief Rana said. A hunt is on for the kingpins — identified as local resident Narender and Raju from Haryana.

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