Monday, September 7, 2015

Sandalwood bust stinks up border trade

The confiscated sandalwood


For the second time in ten seasons of border trade over Nathula, Sikkim Police has confiscated a sandalwood consignment from Gangtok suspected of being readied for smuggling into Tibetan Autonomous Region over Nathula under the cover of border trade. The bust was made in the wee hours of 07 September, Monday, from Manbir Colony on Indira Byepass. As per Sadar Thana officials, the consignment was scheduled for transport to TAR later in the day via Rhenock in East Sikkim. The police raid was carried out at 5:30 a.m. and led to the seizure of 745 kgs of sandalwood in 125 logs valued at Rs. 24 lakh.
Red sandalwood is in huge demand in China and commands a high price of Rs 10 crore per tonne in China while in India, as per Directorate of Revenue Intelligence officials quoted in several media reports, red sanders cost something between Rs 1,500 and Rs 2,000 per kg. Its export is banned and movement within the country requires special permits and documents. It is unlikely that the consignment seized today had such paperwork in place. It is also suspected that Nepal and Bhutan are extensively used as conduits to smuggle red sanders from South India into China via Tibet.
Following the seizure, the truck driver, who, s per police officials, was readying the truck for the drive to the border trade mart at Sherathang when the raiding party arrived, was taken into custody. He allegedly named one Pinku Kumar Gupta as the trader who had commissioned the vehicle and the consignment and the cops have taken him into custody and booked him under non-bailable charges as well. Mr. Gupta has reportedly been engaged in border trade for the last five years.
The raid was led by Station House Officer, Sadar Thana, Bijoy Subba, and included Police Inspector Samir Pradhan and SI Ugen Bhutia.
Addressing a media briefing, SHO Subba informed that they believe the consignment to have been arranged by one Bishan Lama of Salugara, West Bengal, who was also picked up from Rhenock today.
The police has registered a case under the section 379/474/414/34 of Indian Penal Code read with Sections 41 (1),    (2) and sub-clause (a) and (b) of Indian Forest Act 1972. 
This is the second time in ten seasons of border trade over Nathula that Sikkim Police has confiscated sandalwood from Gangtok suspected of being smuggled into TAR. The last such case was on 30 November, 2007 when one person was arrested with a consignment of 83 logs of Sandalwood. Apart from the arrest and the initial detention, the cops could not achieve success with the case since the accused was later acquitted by the High Court.

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