The anti-smuggling wing of the department of customs seized about 27 tonnes of Red sandalwood from a container at the Sahnewal dry port and the warehouse of a Dubai-based firm near the port on Thursday night.
Sources in the department said a Jalandhar based manufacturer of nuts and bolts, Ankur, had complained to the department about suspicious activities of the Dubai-based firm through which they were exporting the products. Following this, the customs officials recovered Red sandalwood from a container at Sahnewal dry port and the firm's warehouse in Rajgarh village in Sahnewal.
An official of the customs department requesting anonymity said, “The Jalandhar based manufacturing firm was exporting nuts and bolts through a Dubai-based firm. A representative of the firm had gone to the company for the supply of products on Thursday.”
He further revealed, “The person asked the companies management to load only 15 tonnes of product whereas one container can carry about 27 tonnes of weight. Also the firm's representatives asked the company officials that he would personally carry the container to the port. This raised suspicion among the manufacturing company's management following which they complained to the department.”
The customs official also said, “The manufacturing company deployed one person to watch the movement of the container. The person observed that the container was carried to a Sahnewal located store, from where the container was driven out after a gap of about 4-5 hours, which further strengthened the doubts. When the container reached the port, its weight was relatively less in comparison to the original. When the container was checked, about half of the front space was filled with nuts and bolts, while the back space was packed with wood, which prima-facie appeared as Red sandalwood.”
The customs officials, then raided the store premises in Rajgarh village in Sahnewal and recovered similar type of sandalwood.
The department has asked the officials of the forest department to take the samples of wood to ascertain after conducting lab tests if the wood was Red sandalwood or not.
Both the store and the container have been sealed and forest officials are expected to take samples by Monday. The custom officials will also be questioning the owner of the store and other persons connected to it.
The officials revealed that looking in to the quantity of wood being smuggled; it appeared that a big gang was involved in the illegal activity.