Red sandalwood smuggling: The five layers of the racket

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Nalgonda, April 25: It would take a while before one puts into the zeroes to a figure of Rs 1 lakh crore. This is a rough estimate of the value of the red sandalwood that remains at the Seshachalam forests. It does not come across as a surprise if the Andhra Pradesh government is moving heaven and earth to guard the red sandalwood.

In every crime there are often five layers and the same can be found in the red sandalwood smuggling racket too.


The five layers of red sandalwood smuggling:

In any case of red sandalwood smuggling, one can find five layers. There are wood choppers, wood cutters, the loaders, transporters and the exporters. All these persons are controlled by a kingpin.

While these five layers are extremely crucial to red sandalwood smuggling, there are behind the scene operators too who play a vital role. The actors, politicians, police and the forest officials.

Investigating officers say that each and every level is crucial. While the first five layers ensure that the act is carried out and it reaches its destination those in the middle facilitate these layers behind the scenes.

It has been seen that film producers and actors have played a role in this racket. They use the money to finance their movies and in the case of actors they often are the ones who hold the ill-gotten wealth.

The politicians who use the money for their party are also a crucial link since they are the ones who direct the police and the forest department officials to look the other way.

Actors, producers actively involved in sandalwood smuggling.

The latest level are the naxals:

Chandrababu Naidu, the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh has been screaming from roof tops that there is a direct naxal link to the entire incident. The naxals are the ones who had taken a fee from the kingpin of the red sandalwood smugglers to assassinate Naidu several years back.

Gangi Reddy, the kingpin of the racket who has close contacts with parties opposed to Naidu had in fact been arrested in Andhra Pradesh a few years back. He had, however, jumped bail and moved to Dubai for a couple of years.

However, his move to Mauritius from Dubai proved costly and he was arrested. The AP government wants him extradited now.

For the naxals the funds are the most important. They act like a cover in the forests and also take up hitman jobs for money. The red sandalwood business is something that they would rely on a lot in a bid to finance themselves and re-establish their movement in South India.

Why do actors bite the bait?

For one to earn a good amount of money, all he or she needs to do is play the broker. Selling red sandalwood in India fetches just Rs 5000 a kilogram as opposed to the Rs 1 lakh it fetches in China. Brokers are normally actors and producers of the film industries.

They get a huge sum for holding the money and at times they are also asked to keep stolen wood in their homes until it is ready for transportation.

The amounts that they get is quite obscene and for them it is worth the risk. Take the extremely famous case of Mohanambal, the famous dancer from Tamil Nadu. She had played host to red sandalwood smugglers and a raid on her home had led to the seizure of crores of rupees and several kilograms of gold.

The recent case of Neethu Agarwal, the small time actor from Andhra Pradesh is no different. It is alleged that she got into the business through a producer friend who was actively involved in red sandalwood smuggling. The producer was actively abetting the cause of the smugglers and she in turn was holding the money and also moving it around.

Investigators say that she and her producer friend could have earned anything between Rs 10 to Rs 20 crore in the past year for abetting red sandalwood smuggling. The police are digging for more information on her.

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