By MANOJ BASNET, The Kathmandu Post
Red sandalwood worth millions of rupees is smuggled every year to Chinese markets through the Araniko Highway under the protection of political parties, police said.
A source said that the illegal act is being carried out under the protection of UCPN (Maoist) lawmaker and assistant in-charge of the party’s Sindhupalchok district, Raj Kumar Shrestha.
Earlier, Maoist cadres close to party leader Agni Sapkota accused Shrestha and his wife Devi Khadka of involvement in the smuggling.
However, the couple instead accused Sapkota of involvement in the timber smuggling and filed a complaint in the Maoist central committee demanding investigation into it. Following the complaint, a three-member probe committee led by Amik Serchan has been formed to probe the allegation. Khadka is a Maoist lawmaker from Dolakha.
“Timber is being smuggled under the protection of political parties,” said a police source.
The source added that around 50 people including Maoist Sindhupalchok district member Bhim Prasad Parajuli and Nepali Congress cadre Rudra Timalsina are involved in the act.
Kavre District Forest Office has issued an arrest warrant against Timalsina based on the statement of a detainee who was arrested with 20 logs of red sandalwood a few weeks ago. Acting on a tip-off, police confiscated 1,400 kg of red sandalwood hidden by Shrestha’s group in a village near Tatopani checkpoint. Police however is yet to arrest the smugglers.
The chief of Sindhupalchok District Police, Basanta Kumar Lama, said that police would arrest the smugglers once it got the request from the concerned forest office. “DFO Kavre has asked police to arrest Timalsina and we have launched a manhunt,” he said