Thiruvananthapuram: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) too will probe into the illegal felling of trees reported from Muttil in Wayanad and a few other districts in Kerala. The central agency is set to probe the case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) as it suspects black money transactions were likely carried out.
The invocation of PMLA empowers the ED to bypass legal hurdles. Moreover, the ED can file the case and carry out the probe without the State government's consent.
The ED has informed the Kerala government in writing that it would also carry out an investigation. The ED’s letter has been sent to the State law Department for advice via the forest department.
Union Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan had earlier said that the ED would probe the matter.
Crime Branch stand
Meanwhile, the Crime Branch FIR refutes the government's stand on the tree-felling incident and pointed to a nexus between officers and contractors.
Timber was smuggled from forests and government land in various districts too apart from assigned (patta) land, the FIR states.
The government incurred losses as a result of the conspiracy between the officials and contractors, the FIR further states, but without disclosing the identity of latter's department.
The State Ministers have been contending that the government did not incur any loss. They also claimed trees were illegally axed from the patta land and an old government order was misinterpreted.
Protected trees such as rosewood and teak were axed and smuggled in large scale from across the state, according to the FIR.
The Crime Branch has filed only a single case.
The officials of the forest and revenue departments are under the purview of the investigation and their statements are likely to be recorded soon. Even top officials could be arraigned as accused, sources indicate.
The accused in the cases registered by the forest department and the police over the illegal tree felling at Muttil in Wayanad are those who axed and smuggled the trees, and the land owners, including the tribals.
Neither the district where the tree-felling incident took place nor the names of the accused have been specifically noted in the FIR.
All the suspected tree-felling incidents till June 15 will come under the purview of the investigation. Crime Branch chief S Sreejith heads the special probe team, which includes officers from the Crime Branch, Vigilance and the forest department.