The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), on Saturday, busted a major red sanders smuggling racket and seized 200 tonnes, ie 2 lakh kg of the precious wood, worth Rs 50 crore. The DRI also impounded over Rs 16 crore in addition to eight expensive cars, including two Bentleys and a Ferrari. Five persons, including the kingpin of the smuggling racket, were arrested in raids conducted at various locations in the city.
Red sanders is a rare and endangered species of trees, used to make high quality musical instruments and toys, among other things. Import and export of red sanders is banned in the country. The five accused ran a racket of smuggling the wood out of the country by swapping consignments of genuine cargo, with containers full of red sanders.
The DRI's swoop began on Friday and went on till Saturday, during which 13 containers of red sanders were seized. Of these, four were at Nhava Sheva port, while nine were on board ships, which were recalled. All containers were marked for Dubai. Officials arrested Ajit Satam, the kingpin, his partner Deepak Zare, and three others.
Of the Rs 16 crore impounded by the DRI, Rs 2.58 crore was in cash seized from Zare's house in Shailesh Towers, Nerul. The remaining amount of Rs 13.5 crore was found in a Cosmos Bank account belonging to Satam. Officials also seized eight luxury cars including a Ferrari and two Bentleys. Though these cars were seized from Satam's and Zare's premises, the DRI is verifying the owners of the vehicles. The DRI claims there are over 10 cases pending against Satam.