Forest officials seize 118 kg of sandalwood in Idukki; seven arrested

The accused are Anto Antony, K A Antony, Binu Elias, Baby Sam James, Kunnathu Stephen K J, Chebettikal Shiju Shine.

Idukki: Forest officials seized 118 kg of sandalwood worth Rs 25 lakh from illegal agents at Muttom in Thodupuzha. Seven people were arrested in the joint operation by forest intelligence, the Idukki forest flying squad and foresters of the Thodupuzha Range office on Thursday.

According to Thodupuzha Range Forest Officer (RFO) Sijo Samuel, the operation was carried out based on input from a staffer of forest intelligence under the guise of an illegal sandal buyer. He approached the agents and was asked to reach a house in the Malankara estate in Muttom on Thursday.

“As our team reached the house owned by Kallel Jenimon Chacko (39), one of the accused in the case, there were six other men there. The sandalwood logs and pieces were kept in a sack inside the house. An Alto and a Ritz car used by the smugglers have also been seized,” said the RFO.

The accused are being interrogated to find others linked to the smuggling chain, who are learnt to have been in the illegal sandal trade for some time now. “From where they got the sandal is yet to be revealed. The seven accused will be presented before the Muttom Judicial First Class Magistrate Court on Friday,” he added.

It is learnt from sources in the forest that the department has launched a massive investigation in connection with the seizure of sandalwood in Thodupuzha.

The seized sandalwood. Photo: Special arrangements

The accused in the case are Anto Antony (38) and K A Antony (70), both members of Kunnel house in Vannapuram; Karottumuriyil Binu Elias (44) of Vananpuram; Thekkeparambil Baby Sam James (31) of Kaliyar; Kunnathu Stephen K J (36) of Moonilavu; and Chebettikal Shiju Shine (31) of Valakam.

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