Tollywood actress arrested over ‘red sanders’ smuggling case

Andhra Pradesh Police on Sunday arrested Telugu actress Neetu Agarwal in connection with the smuggling of red sanders in the state.

The actress who was on a run for the past 4 days was arrested in Hyderabad. She was later shifted to Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh, where a case was booked against her for conspiring with the smugglers.

The 27-year-old actress was taken to Allagadda town in Kurnool district in the evening and after check-up at a government-run hospital was produced before a magistrate, who sent her to judicial custody.

According to police, Agarwal was named as ac accused in a case booked two months ago in connection with the seizure of 34 logs of the precious wood.

The actress was booked on charges of criminal conspiracy under Indian Penal Code (IPC) and other relevant sections of Forest Act.

Telugu actress Neetu Agarwal

Police said Agarwal transferred money through her bank account to an alleged smuggler Balu Naidu. She allegedly did this at the instance of Mastan Vali, a leader of YSR Congress party and an accused in the case whom she claimed to have married. The alleged involvement of the actress and an opposition party leader in red sander smuggling has come to light at a time when the state government has decided to crack down on smugglers.

Police had gunned 20 woodcutters employed by red sander smugglers in Seshachalam forests in Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh on April 7.

Red Sanders or red sandalwood valued for the rich red colour of its wood. Due to its slow growth and rarity, furniture made from zitan is difficult to find and is very expensive. It has been one of the most prized woods for millennia.

In India, sandalwood is one main and lucrative market for smugglers, as a high price is paid for this wood in China. Since, the exporting of sandalwood in India, the underground market is growing and there are a number of arrests every year of those trying to smuggle this wood to China.

Sharanya Bharathwaj