04 December, 2020

The Brigand's Booty

What happened to all the sandalwood Veerappan smuggled in his two-decade reign? Who runs the business now? A journey down the illegal trade route.

The Brigand's Booty
All through his life as a poacher and sandalwood smuggler, the police in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu would issue statements on the thousands of tonnes of sandalwood Veerappan felled and smuggled out of the Sathyamangalam forests. No one, despite the crores spent to hunt the bandit, seemed to have a clue as to where Veerappan's sandalwood went. But now that he is dead, the details of the trail that the bandit's loot took, the manner in which it was transported and where it finally ended up is finally surfacing. The picture that emerges is of a lucrative sandalwood oil business running into thousands of crores which flourished thanks to political patronage and police connivance in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and, to some extent, Andhra Pradesh.

Investigations by Outlook, which involved tapping the forest department and going on the trail that Veerappan took, reveal that most of Veerappan's loot crossed the Tamil Nadu and Karnataka borders and reached Kerala's Palakkad district. Here it was steam-distilled into sandal oil and sold in the international market to perfumeries...


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