Sino-India sandalwood smuggling racket unearthed in Nepal
Apr 13, 2007 - 1:49:28 PM

Kathmandu, April 13 - When priests in Nepal need sandalwood for the daily rituals of the Hindu god Pashupatinath, they have to ask India for a gift of the wood that is unavailable here. However, a network of smugglers, extending from India to China via Nepal, has been obtaining and selling the precious wood with impunity.

A massive smuggling racket, in which security and customs officials from all three countries are likely to be involved, was unearthed in Nepal this week with the interception of a truck carrying 11 tonnes of the precious wood.

On Wednesday, a truck carrying the contraband cargo hidden under a load of potatoes was intercepted at Thankot, one of the main entry points to Nepal from India, by a Nepal revenue Investigation Department patrol.

The sandalwood consignment, worth millions of rupees, was heading towards Khasa, the Tibetan town adjoining Nepal's border.

Nepal's local media Friday said police and customs officials are involved in the smuggling, that is an annual racket, heading for China from India from late winter to early summer.

The cache, after making its way to Nepal from India, is hidden in warehouses in three locations in the capital till the gang receives the green signal to proceed to the Nepal-Tibet border, the Kantipur daily said Friday.

It also said a Nepali police personnel had rung up his colleagues on his mobile phone, asking them to escort the truck and take it past the customs checkpoint.

According to the report, at least three Nepalis operating from the Tibet-Nepal border area are involved in the sandalwood smuggling. It also said at least three truckloads had come to Nepal.

Nepal's newly appointed forest and soil conservation minister Matrika Prasad Yadav, who comes from the Maoist party, said his department was investigating the incident.

Last year, Nepal's business community had released a report that said the three neighbouring countries lose billions in revenue each year due to rampant smuggling.

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