Himachal police zero in on rare wood smuggler


Shimla : Himachal Pradesh police have zeroed on a man recently released from Delhi’s Tihar Jail as the mastermind behind the smuggling of banned red sanders wood to China from here.

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“We have established beyond doubt that Narinder Bodh of Kaza (a village close to China border in Lahaul and Spiti district) was the kingpin in the attempt to smuggle the rare wood to China,” Superintendent of Police S.R. Rana told IANS.

He said Bodh was released from Tihar Jail in April after serving a 14-year jail term in a drugs smuggling case.

Two trucks transporting 12 tonnes of red sanders wood were seized at Kaurik, just 3 km from the international border, on the night of Aug 23. The truck drivers — Vijay Kumar and Raju — were arrested on the spot.

Both the drivers had in possession valid permits issued by the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) at Sumdoh to move closer to the border.

Subsequently, the police arrested two ITBP officials — deputy commandant Sukhdev Singh Rana and inspector Manmohan Singh — for having issued the permits to the accused. They are in police custody till Sep 20.

Police superintendent Rana said during the investigations it was found that Bodh was in constant touch with Sukhdev on his mobile phone.

“We have seized Sukhdev’s mobile phone and found that several calls were made from his phone to Bodh,” he said.

The police are now obtaining details of bank accounts and lockers of the two ITBP officials and their family members.

A senior police official investigating the case said the rare wood reached Kaza town, the headquarters of Spiti, sometime in May and the stocks were illegally kept in some houses.

“At the time of smuggling wood to Kaza, Bodh played a crucial role and he was present from where the wood was taken to China. We also suspect that he was also present when the trucks carrying the illegal consignment were seized,” said the officer.

Himachal Pradesh shares a porous border with China and the police say smuggling of rare species of fauna and Chinese goods like blankets and thermos flasks across the border is quite frequent.

The red sanders wood is a prohibited item of export and listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) list.

Red sanders wood is used to manufacture furniture, musical instruments and toys and natural dyes, and is in great demand in Singapore and Hong Kong. It is mostly found in the forests of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, and officially auctioned.