Rs 48 crore red sanders smuggling racket busted

Seizure of around 8,000 metric tonnes of red sanders worth Rs 3.20 crore led the DRI to a shipping company’s MD, whose arrest unveiled a massive racket

The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) unearthed an international smuggling racket of red sanders with the arrest of the managing director of a Mumbai-based shipping company on Tuesday. Cops said they recovered red sanders worth Rs 3.20 crore on Monday, but in the past the cartel had smuggled more than 12 consignments from India to other countries worth Rs 48 crore.

Harshavardhan Hegde, managing director of M/s Emirates Shipping Agencies (India) Pvt Ltd, was arrested by the DRI for allegedly smuggling red sanders to Dubai. The DRI seized 7,800 metric tonnes of wooden logs purported to be red sanders worth Rs 3.20 crore.

According to a DRI official, they received specific intelligence on November 27 that red sanders were being smuggled out of the country in an export consignment on forged documents in a container.

Interrogation trail
A DRI official said, “We intercepted the container at the NSICT (Nhava Sheva International Container Terminal). It was heading to Jebel Ali port in Dubai. Hegde did not divulge any details in his statement about Vijay Poojary, in whose name Hegde booked the consignment. Poojary has been involved in smuggling of red sanders for a long time.”

Statement of deputy manager (operation), Shivdas Tandel of the shipping firm, was recorded yesterday when he revealed that in the past, Poojary had booked many such containers, which Hegde used to personally take care of. They sailed smoothly through Nhava Sheva.

Tandel even told DRI officials that a day before the container was seized, Hegde told Tandel that if the consignment is seized, he should not reveal Poojary’s name. After interrogating Tandel, Hegde was further grilled and he revealed that he had been operating with Poojary since September 2014.

Around 16 suspected consignments were booked by Poojary under bogus company names. The estimated quantity of red sanders that might have been smuggled out in these 16 consignments is 120MTs valued at Rs 48 crore.

Booked!
Hegde was arrested by DRI on Monday under the provisions of section 104 of Customs Act, 1962 on account of his involvement in smuggling activities. A DRI official said, “Hegde is involved in smuggling of red sanders but he is not divulging information about his friend and kingpin of smuggling operations Poojary. Hedge was produced in court and remanded in judicial custody.”

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