Customs authorities claim that the red sanders seized last week was obtained by cutting at least 1,200 trees.
Red sanders is a tree yielding a hard fragrant timber and is protected under the Wildlife Protection Act.
The customs opened the container on Tuesday and found around 2,000 logs of red sanders. Though the local value of the seized red sanders stands at Rs 2.6 crore, the international market value is as high as Rs 6.2 crore, customs officers said.
The customs authorities had seized the container carrying red sanders at the Nhava Sheva port, moments before it was to be shipped to Dubai. From there it was to be smuggled further.
The consignment, declared as synthetic yarn, was ready to be shipped as the container was shown as factory stuffed, which means the goods were placed in the container at the factory and under supervision of the central excise officials.
As per procedure, the customs officials do not scrutinise a container if it is factory stuffed.
The authorities also learnt that the smugglers used a genuine central excise seal on the consignment. "We suspect that maybe an employee of the company that makes the seal may have sneaked it out,” a senior customs officer said, on condition of anonymity, as he is not authorised to speak to the media.
Last year, the customs had found a similar modus operandi where the peon of a company making the seal had stolen it. The peon was paid Rs 5,000 by the smugglers for the job.
The central excise department had terminated the contract with that company. "If found that an insider had made the seal available to the smugglers, the contract with this firm will be terminated as well," the officer said.