Kollegal: The Mahadeshwara Wildlife Forest officials have arrested 10 persons on charges of chopping sandalwood trees in forest area and trying to smuggle the sandalwood billets. Five more accused have gone absconding and a hunt has been launched to nab them. Out of the 10 accused, two (a couple) have tested positive for COVID-19.
The arrested are 32-year-old Raju, 35-year-old Appoji, 32-year-old Rajappa, 50-year-old Somaiah, 55-year-old Muniyappa, 25-year-old Byramma, 27-year-old Shanthamma, 28-year-old Salamma, 27-year-old Basavaraju and 40-year-old Basavaraju, all from Ramanadoddi village, Hosur taluk, Krishnagiri district of Tamil Nadu.
Those absconding are 30-year-old Nagaraju, 25-year-old Pandya, 28-year-old Murugan, 25-year-old Suresh and 30-year-old Narasimha.
Out of the above accused, eight of them had illegally entered the forest area near Sathegala-Jageri, where they had chopped down sandalwood trees, cut them into pieces and were smuggling them in bags via Barachukki beat Kalavadigame Road.
Under the guidance of Deputy Conservator of Forests (DCF) Yedukondalu, Assistant Conservator of Forests (ACF) Vanitha, Range Forest Officer (RFO) Praveen Chalavadi and team, who had taken up the operation since a week, saw the sandalwood smugglers, stopped them and on inspecting their belongings, the Forest officials found sandalwood billets and equipment used to chop trees following which they were arrested.
During interrogation, the accused are said to have revealed that they had chopped the sandalwood trees to sell the same to a person in Kolar. Two more smugglers were arrested later.
The interrogation also revealed the involvement of five others, who are absconding. Following the arrest, the Forest officials have recovered 24 kg sandalwood billets, 30 kg Makali Beru, machetes, iron spear and three mobile phones from them.
Forest staff Mahanand Deepak, Krishnappa, Ravikiran and others were present.