Pune crucial link in red sandalwood smuggling


INVESTIGATIONS have revealed that Pune is an important link to the rampant red sandalwood smuggling. Sources said smugglers have developed strong connections at the Nhava Sheva and other ports in Mumbai. They transport huge quantities of red sandalwood from villages in Andhra Pradesh to Mumbai via Pune by illegal means. Then, from the ports in Mumbai, the red sandalwood is smuggled to foreign countries.

A senior officer said, "There are different routes by which red sandalwood is suspected to be smuggled out of India. Pune is an important place for smugglers operating from Mumbai ports. So, they look for places or godowns for storing red sandalwood in and around Pune district, from where they can transport it to Mumbai."

On Friday evening, the Pune rural police had seized about 10,000 kg red sandalwood worth Rs 2.24 crore in a container at Belhe village on the Ahmednagar-Kalyan Road. Police arrested container driver Taukir Irshad Khan (31), a native of Uttar Pradesh, and currently residing in Navi Mumbai. The container had a government seal.

When the police questioned Khan, he initially said he was Manish Suresh Tiwari. He also produced a driving licence with the name. But police found it was a fake licence and his real name is Taukir Khan. Police said the container's engine number and documents were also tampered with. Khan wanted to take the consignment to Nhava Sheva Port in Mumbai. His aide from Kalamboli has also been arrested.

In January, the Pune rural police had raided two godowns at Waki Budruk village in Chakan and seized huge stock of red sandalwood and teak wood worth Rs 3 crore. The racketeers brought red sandalwood from AP to this godown in Chakan. From there, it was to be taken to Mumbai. Police had arrested kingpin Deepak Zare of Navi Mumbai.

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