Around 200 police personnel went hotfoot to Kattigenahalli village near Hosakote at 1:30 am on Saturday to nab a father-son duo who are notorious sandalwood smugglers.
The police contingent surrounded the house where Syed Riyaz,(49) and his son Syed Sher Ali(28) were and broke open the door to nab them. The accused were caught red-handed with 9 kg sandalwood pieces and Rs 35 lakh in cash. The police also seized gold ornaments.
There is a reason why the Central Division police had to commission the 200-strong force comprising its personnel and a few platoons of the Karnataka State Reserve Police (KSRP) to arrest the duo.
Syed Riyaz and Syed Sher Ali are said to have the full support of the village. When the police had deployed a handful of men earlier on several occasions to arrest them, the locals had pelted stones at the policemen to prevent them from making the arrests. The police parties had to then beat a hasty retreat to escape from the mob.
The formidable police presence, this time, however, discouraged the villagers from turning violent.
Deputy Commissioner of Police Devaraj D told reporters on Saturday afternoon that a special team was formed to nab the accused after repeated sandalwood theft cases were reported in Cubbon Park, Vidhana Soudha and High Grounds police stations limits. The accused had also targeted government residences of a judge and another officer who works in the secretariat.
Based on a tip-off, five of the accused — Imadullah, Mujahidullah, Ranganathan, Ramaswamy and Lakshman — were arrested a few days ago. On interrogating them, they revealed the names of Syed Riyaz and his son Sher Ali who were receiving the smuggled sandalwood.
Devaraj said the accused had interstate connections and were selling red sander wood across India, including in Andra Pradesh, Telangana and other neighbouring states.
As part of their modus operandi, the gang used to change the number plates of vehicles they used each time they targeted a location. They chose locations after carefully gathering information about sandalwood trees at target locations.
The police seized several vehicle number plates including from Haryana, Delhi and Karnataka. Speaking to reporters, Syed Riyaz’s wife Kurshudiunnisa said the police contingent searched the house for an hour and took away gold ornaments and cash kept for her daughter’s wedding. She claimed they had sold a property to buy the ornaments for the wedding.