Paid Rs 25 lakh Bribe To Forest Officials For Transporting Logs, Says Kerala Timber Trader

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'Paid Rs 25 lakh Bribe To Forest Officials For Transporting Logs', Says Kerala Timber Trader

In an interview with a news channel, Roji Augustine, the trader and main accused in the Muttil tree felling case, alleged that he paid ₹25 lakh to a number of forest officials for transporting the axed logs.

A timber trader from Kerala on Thursday, June 10, alleged he had paid a bribe of ₹25 lakh to the forest officials to fell expensive rosewood trees in the state's Wayanad district.

Roji Augustine, a key accused in the Muttil tree felling incident, said to a TV news channel that he paid ₹10 lakh to Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) in Wayanad, ₹2 lakh to one more DFO, ₹5 lakh to Range Officer (RO), ₹3 lakh to ex-RO, and rest to other forest officials in the district to transport the wooden logs, reported The New Indian Express.

Augustine said that he had no options other than paying a bribe for transporting the logs. He had chopped as many as 56 trees including 14 from his own plantation. He possessed the necessary documents but the officials seized the wood.

He further alleged that the same officer, who seized his logs, had earlier allowed the felling of eight rosewood trees from vested forest land. On the officer's watch, the trees were cut from Manikkunnumala forests and transported without any hindrance.

Issue Turns Political

The Congress party had raised this issue in the Kerala Assembly on Tuesday, June 8. Congress legislator PT Thomas put forward a photograph of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan shaking hands with Roji Augustine at a function in 2017 hinting at collusion, reported Hindustan Times.

According to Mathrubhumi, Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar has sought a report from the relevant authorities on the incidents of mass felling and transporting of the rosewood trees. This was revealed by Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan who alleged that timber worth crore were being cut under the provisions of an order issued by the state government last year.

Muttil Tree Felling Case

As per media reports, rosewood trees worth crore of rupees were axed based on a government order issued in October, 2020. The order allowed farmers to cut all trees planted in the land assigned to them, except sandalwood.

The order was withdrawn in February 2021, however, because of the misinterpretation of the order, hundreds of trees at least up to 500 years old were already axed.

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