International racket behind rare wood smuggled to China: Police (Lead)

August 28th, 2010 - 12:12 am ICT by IANS  

Shimla, Aug 27 (IANS) There could be a major international racket behind the smuggling of the banned red sanders wood that was seized close to the border with China in Himachal Pradesh, a senior police official said Friday.
Investigators pointed out that there were serious lapses on the part of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) in allowing the wood to reach closer to the India-China border.

Two trucks transporting 12 tonnes (120 quintal) of red sanders wood were seized close to the China border near Kaurik in Lahaul and Spiti district Monday night.

A senior police official investigating the case said the rare wood reached Kaza town, the headquarters of Spiti, sometime in May and these were illegally kept in some houses.

“Two trucks were hired Aug 21 to transport the red sanders from Kaza to Lapcha village via Sumdoh check post (manned by the ITBP) and Kaurik. On reaching Kaurik (the same day), the trucks were parked there for two days,” said the official, requesting anonymity.

“It’s a case of cross-border smuggling and it is believed to be en route to China. There might be some big gang behind the trade,” Superintendent of Police S.R. Rana told IANS.

The trucks that were parked at Kaurik, just 3 km short of the international border, were seized on a tip-off by a police team on the night of Aug 23, he said. The truck drivers - Vijay Kumar and Raju - were arrested on the spot.

Rana said during interrogation the drivers told the police that their trucks were hired by Prem Singh, who was arrested Thursday from Kinnaur district. “Police believe that he is one of the prime suspects and allegedly helped the smugglers take the consignment across the border.”

“Surprisingly, both the drivers have in possession valid permits issued by the ITBP at Sumdoh to move closer to the border,” Rana said.

He said police are investigating how the drivers got the permit from the ITBP.

Sources in police said the permits were genuine but these were meant for transporting labourers only.

“The permits clearly mentioned transportation of 30 labourers on both the trucks. It seems to be a deliberate attempt on the part of ITBP to allow trucks to carry the rare wood,” they said.

Himachal Pradesh shares a porous border with China and the police officers say smuggling of rare species of fauna, and Chinese goods like blankets and thermos flasks is quite frequent.

The red sanders wood is a prohibited item for export and listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) list.

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