Red sandalwood smuggler arrested in Odisha

Berhampur: A man was arrested and 10 logs of red sandalwood were seized from Labanyagada Badakondagaon forest under Mahendra forest range in Gajapati district of Odisha.

The man, who was arrested yesterday, has been identified as A Dharma (31) of Badakondagaon under Garabandh police station limits.

The logs worth Rs 20 lakh were buried near a pond in the forest.

Police suspect that smugglers who made away with red sandalwood logs on November 15, 2015, might have hidden a few of them near the pond.

“Dharma was involved in the loot and he along with other accused had been on the run since then. He spilled the beans during interrogation,” SP (Gajapati) Satyajit Naik said.

The SP said around 20 people had felled red sandalwood trees in the forest that night after tying up forest staff.

“Efforts were on to nab the smugglers and Dharma was identified as one of them,” he said.

Red sandalwood is in high demand in the international market, mainly China. Forest officials suspect that red sandalwood is generally smuggled to China via Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and West Bengal. It is used for preparing medicines, handicrafts, furniture and perfume.

The trading of red sandalwood however, has been prohibited by Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, officials added.

Red sandalwood trees are found in abundance in Gajapati district, particularly in Garabandh and Mahendra ranges, along Odisha-Andhra Pradesh border.

In September last year, forest officials had foiled a smuggling bid and arrested five persons, including one from Kerala. Around 800 kg of the precious wood was seized from them, official sources said.