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Sandalwood jail for trader

Siliguri, Sept. 10: A Calcutta-based businessman and his employee were today sent to jail by a local court here for their alleged involvement in a sandalwood smuggling racket.

Officials of the directorate of revenue intelligence produced Jiwan Behal, who runs a chemical manufacturing unit at Jessore Road in Dumdum, and Gokul Saha before additional chief judicial magistrate of Siliguri Bibhuti Khesang.

“The judge remanded them in jail custody. They will be produced again on September 16,” said Ratan Banik, the standing counsel of the central government who is representing the DRI.

According to DRI sources, red sandalwood, which has a huge market in China, is being brought from states like Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka and smuggled to China through Nepal for making decorative items. Smugglers often use the porous border at Panitanki in Naxalbari block, around 40km from here to take their consignments to Nepal — which is evident from regular seizures by the DRI and the SSB personnel on the border.

“Investigations and seizures have revealed that Behal and his associates used the chemical manufacturing unit to store the sandalwood logs and also to camouflage their smuggling activities. The logs were loaded into trucks bound for Nepal,” a source said.

On September 3, the DRI officials intercepted two trucks at Ghoshpukur on NH31, around 20km from here, and seized 14,965kg of red sandalwood that were on way to China via Nepal. The drivers of both the vehicles were arrested.

The arrested drivers told the interrogators about Behal’s involvement in running.

“The Siliguri DRI then informed their counterparts in Calcutta, who in association with Dumdum police, arrested Behal and Saha, from Jessore Road on September 3,” Banik said. “Next day, the duo were produced in the metropolitan magistrate’s court in Calcutta who remanded them in jail custody.”

On Wednesday, a team of DRI officials reached Calcutta and prayed for the duo’s transit remand. The two were brought here and presented at the court today, Banik said. “During the arrest, the police and the DRI officials raided Behal’s chemical manufacturing unit and seized more sandalwood logs.”

Two ITBP officers have been arrested on Tuesday for alleged collusion with smugglers of red sandalwood in a Himachal Pradesh pocket along the China border.

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