After the Chakan police arrested red sandalwood smuggling kingpin Deepak Jare from Navi Mumbai on Wednesday and brought him to the city, some shocking facts came to the fore during the interrogation. According to police, Jare is one the biggest red sandalwood smugglers in the country and a former aide of infamous international smuggler Ajit Satam. Jare, who earlier worked as a Customs Clearance Agent at the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) Port in Navi Mumbai, told the police that he would put fake seal of Customs and Excise Department on the containers and would cover sandalwood with rubber sheets so that it couldn’t be traced during the scanning procedure.
Explaining Jare’s modus operandi, Deputy Superintendent of Police (Khed Division) B R Patil, “He, along with Depak Naidu -- who was arrested with 17 tonnes of sandalwood worth Rs 3 crore on January 26 -- and a builder-turned-smuggler from Navi Mumbai got sandalwood from small gangs in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. They would bring truckloads of wood logs to Waki Budruk -- 40 km from the city -- where they had two godowns. After 10-15 days, they would load the logs in a container and take it to JNPT Port from where it was sent to foreign countries.” Patil added, “As Jare was well versed with the operations at JNPT Port, he would put official seals of the Customs Department on the containers after which the it was sent directly to the ship for destinations like China and Singapore.
“During the interrogation, we came to know our Local Crime Branch Inspector Nitin Kumar Gokave and his team had already caught the consignment that was seized earlier this year. However, they didn’t take any action, and instead provided it safe passage for a Rs 60 lakh bribe. In the meantime the Inspector Sushil Kadam of Chakan Police Station too got a tip off, following which he raided the godown, seized the consignment, and arrested Depak Naidu,” Patil said. He added that Gokave had earlier demanded Rs 1 crore from Naidu, however the deal was sealed at Rs 60 lakh, out of which the first installment of Rs 15 lakh was paid on the spot. “For the remaining amount, Naidu was confined in the Lonavala based lodge,” Patil said.
He added that cops were hand-in-glove with the smugglers, an inquiry was initiated and the concern inspector was transferred to the traffic division. Before the major haul in January, the smugglers had managed to smuggle the rare wood to foreign countries via the JNPT Port. The police believe that custom, forest and police officials from other states and districts too may be involved in the racket, as such a thing cannot happen without their support. The team that cracked the case comprised of API Sandip Yede, Constable Rajesh Pawar, Ramesh Nale, Maruti Shinde and Sachin Jatkar from Chakan police station.
Red sandalwood is used for making premium furniture. Besides, it’s utlised as a coolant in atomic power stations. The wood reportedly has medicinal value -- in China, extracts are used to make pills to treat erectile dysfunction.
Gangs of smugglers
Jare had joined JNPT Port in 1988 as a customs clearance agent. In 2000, he met Ajit Satam and started working for him. They used to put fake customs seals on the consignments containing red sandalwood, and smuggled them under the garb of agricultural products.
In 2010, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRT) raided their consignment worth Rs 5 crore and arrested the duo. Jare was in lodged in Nashik Jail, but was released on bail in August 2012. The same year in December, Jare met Depak Naidu, who introduced him to a Navi Mumbai-based builder, and the trio started their own gang.
Illegal business: Deepak Jare, who was arrested in 2010 with red sandalwood worth about Rs 5 crore, was lodged in Nashik Jail. He was released on bail in August 2012