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Police nabs alleged kingpin of sandalwood smuggling gang in Bengaluru

In a major pre-dawn swoop, a contingent of 200 armed policemen Saturday nabbed the alleged kingpin of major sandalwood and red sander smuggling gang of the South and his son from a village on the city outskirts. The duo was involved in almost all the sandalwood and red sander cutting and smuggling in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, Deputy Commissioner of Police of Central Division D Devaraj told reporters. The gang had stolen sandalwood from the bungalows of the chief secretary, Chief Justice of the Karnataka High Court, the police commissioner's bungalow and other places, he said.

"We have arrested Riyaz and his son Syed Shaikh Ali from their house at Kattigenahalli near Hoskote. They were involved in cutting and transporting sandalwood from government bungalows," the DCP told reporters here. "While questioning the gang, police came to know about the Amzadulla brothers from Bagalur, who used to hire another gang from Yercaud in Tamil Nadu to do a recce on government bungalows andcarefully cut the trees at night," he said. All of them have been arrested, Devaraj said. He said Riyaz and his son never used to leave their village, fearing arrest. The son's marriage was performed in the village itself, he said.

"Police could never arrest them despite having information for the past five years because whenever they went, everyone in the village, including women and children, used topelt stones at policemen," said Devaraj. A fortnight back, three policemen, including two Sub-Inspectors had to run for their lives when they went to arrest the father and son, the DCP said. "If they had to receive a consignment, then they would do it in the eucalyptus plantation in the village. And delivery used to take place at night without the knowledge of anyone, the DCP said. On Saturday, the operation was carried out by Devaraj, DCP of Whitefield division Abdul Ahad, 12 inspectors, 20SIs, 60 constables and Karnataka State Reserve Police jawans in three vehicles.

A contingent of 200 policemen stormed the village at 3 PM before the village woke up to the call for morning Namaaz. "We seized Rs 35 lakh in cash, half a kg of gold and some sandalwood. We got some documents to substantiate that they have been in this illegal business since 2010," said the DCP. Police sources said that the employees and tree felling contractors of Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike and some policemen were learnt to be on the payroll of the gang to pass on sensitive information about the presence of sandalwood, red sander trees and alerting them whenever any operation was planned against them. Police booked the entire gang under the draconian Karnataka Control of Organised Crime Act (KCOCA) in which there is no provision for bail for a year.

(With inputs from agencies.)

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