In a significant breakthrough, the Yercaud forest department has apprehended two individuals involved in sandalwood smuggling.
The action was triggered by a tip-off received by the Yercaud forest department, suggesting rampant smuggling of sandalwood from the Yercaud area to other regions. Acting swiftly on this confidential information, Forest Range Officer Murugan, Forest Guard Sakthivel along with a team from the and Shashang Ravi initiated an investigation, supported by a team from the Forest Department launched search.
In the early hours of August 15, at approximately 5:30 AM, the forest officials encountered a suspicious individual at the Yercaud bus station. Carrying a bag in his possession, the man raised suspicions. Upon conducting a search of his bag, the officials made a startling discovery - fragments of sandalwood, collectively weighing around 12 kg.
Under the uidance of Yercaud Range Officer Murugan, the forest department team proceeded to interrogate the detained individual, who identified himself as Rangaraj, the son of Chellamuthu. Hailing from the Vazhavanti area of Yercaud, Rangaraj admitted to his involvement in the illegal sandalwood trade.
Further interrogation of Rangaraj yielded crucial information. He confessed that his associates, Vellaian (son of Andi), a resident of Yercaud's Guntur area, and Mr. Venkatesan (son of Mr. Vadaman), residing in the Maramangalam locality, were also part of the smuggling network. They confessed to having felled sandalwood trees and prepared them for illicit trade.
Acting on this new lead, the forest department targeted the apprehension of Vellaian and Venkatesan., Vellaiyan was apprehended from the Vazhavanti area. During questioning, Valliyan corroborated the claims, admitting to his and Venkatesan's involvement in the felling of sandalwood trees.
Salem District Forest Officer Shesang Ravi took charge of the interrogation of the captured individuals. For their involvement in the unlawful sandalwood trade, the authorities imposed a hefty fine of Rs 2,80,000 on them.
Efforts are now underway to locate and apprehend the alleged mastermind behind this elaborate sandalwood smuggling operation, Venkatesan, official sources said.