Veerappan's aides involved in red sanders wood smuggling?

Veerappan's aides involved in red sanders wood smuggling?

Veerappan's aides involved in red sanders wood smuggling?

Smugglers connected with slain forest brigand Veerappan's gang may be involved in smuggling of red sanders wood in Andhra Pradesh, state police chief B. Prasada Rao said Tuesday.

The director general of police said red sanders smuggling assumed serious dimensions with the recent killing of two forest officials by smugglers in Seshachalam forests of Chittoor district.

While some associates of Veerappan were active, Rao said he could not specify if they were involved in red sanders smuggling.

"They may be or may not be involved. Some others are also taking to smuggling as they get tempted because of the high value of the rare wood," Rao told reporters.

He said some smugglers hail from Karnataka and Tamil Nadu and that efforts were being made to prevent them from crossing over into Andhra Pradesh.

"We are alive to the situation and coordinating closely with the forest department. We want to maintain pressure so that it doesn't become a powerful mafia," the police chief said.

He outlined the measures being taken by police to check red sanders wood smuggling. These include sending armed policemen with forest officials venturing into jungles and strengthening of forest check-posts.

Police were also seeking help of villagers at entry points into the forests to check the activity of smugglers.

Two forest officers were killed and three were injured in an attack by several red sanders wood smugglers in Seshachalam forests bordering Tamil Nadu Dec 15.

The police chief said 350 people were arrested after the incident but 20-30 of them may be actually involved in the murder.

He said that during 2013, as many as 3,249 people were arrested for red sanders smuggling and 531 cases were registered. Police also seized 13,958 logs.

Chittoor and its surrounding districts are famous for red sanders. The rare wood, which is said to be priced at Rs.60 lakh per tonne in the international market, is mainly used in aphrodisiac drugs and for making musical instruments and furniture.