Hyderabad, April 22: The red sandalwood smuggling racket has far and wide ramifications and the recent arrest of kingpin Sounder Rajan is a clear indicator of how the high and mighty were facilitating this racket.
In question are two powerful persons from Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh who were in direct contact with Rajan who ran a godown for them at Siluguri in West Bengal.
Call records, which are in the possession of the Andhra Pradesh police clearly show the conversation between the smugglers and these politicians and how a channel was being set up to transport the red sandal wood logs into Myanmar and China.
The Sounder Rajan investigation:
Sounder Rajan is no ordinary fry in this entire racket, which runs into thousands of crores. He was the man who ensured that the red sandalwood chopped at the Seshachalam hill range in Andhra Pradesh made its way into West Bengal. He also was tasked with sending out the smuggled logs into China and Myanmar where there is a heavy demand for the same.
During the investigations, the AP police have found that Rajan was running the godown for an Ex MLA from Tamil Nadu and a former minister of the Congress from Andhra Pradesh. There are call records to suggest that these persons were in contact with each other planning out strategy.
In addition to this, the police have also seized the mobile phones from the smugglers who were shot dead in the Seshachalam hill range. The call records which number around 20 led up to Rajan and the West Bengal connection.
Every check point was cleared:
When the AP police raided the godown in West Bengal, they found logs worth Rs 20 crore. However, the bigger question is how these persons managed to transport such heavy logs between AP and West Bengal, the distance which measures almost the length and breath of the country.
There was a dedicated route between AP-TN and West Bengal. The route was not a new one and was in operation for the past several years. Permissible wood would be stocked into a lorry and beneath it the red sandalwood logs would be hidden.
The police say that these persons had mastered the art of moving the loot through the check posts and the involvement of these high profile politicians only helped the cause. The politician from the Rayalseema region of Andhra Pradesh was particularly active in this entire racket and the police which is gathering more evidence is likely to question him and if the need be arrest him too.
Big names involved:
As per the admission of Bojjala Krishna Reddy, the forest minister of Andhra Pradesh, big names were involved in this racket. He also informed that arrests of these big persons would also be carried out.
The police too informed that without the support of the big names from both Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, a racket of this magnitude would not have been possible.
We are checking to find out if there are more such godowns like the one we found in West Bengal. It is clear that the wood was being transported closer to the border areas so that it could be smuggled out of the country.
The market they were clearly targeting was China and Myanmar where the demand is the highest. We also have information that a large quantity of the wood has moved into Nepal first before being smuggled into China.
It is a very powerful lobby and during the investigations, we had also found that it was these red sandalwood smugglers who had funded the naxals to assassinate the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Chandrababu Naidu several years back.
There are several stake holders in this racket, a senior official of the AP police informed. We are aware that the last Tamil Nadu elections to a large extent was funded by the red sandalwood smugglers. Even in AP the campaign of a particular party was also funded by them since they have always let them do their job unabated, the officer also pointed out.