Drugs case leads to rare wood inquiry

Drugs case leads to rare wood inquiry

The Royal Forest Department and Department of Special Investigation (DSI) have teamed up to find out why a now dead member of a drug network had precious wood worth 160 million baht in his possession.

The seizure came during a DSI raid on the dead man's home to seize assets thought to have been acquired from drug money in tambon Khlong Madua of Krathum Baen district in Samut Sakhon province.

The DSI discovered precious wood that included 409 planks of rosewood, 1,207 blackwood planks, 170 planks of teak and 17 of makha mong.

The house had been owned by Sathit Wiyaporn, who had been a member of a drug network connected to a 508-million-baht drug case.

Cheewapap Cheewatham, director of the Forest Protection and Fire Control Bureau, Royal Forest Department, on Wednesday said an initial investigation showed that most of the wood was likely cut in the Northeast, not from abroad, and was stored at Sathit's house.

He said a probe was under way to find out whether the wood came from protected areas as they had no official stamp from authorities.

"Every time rosewood or other protected wood seizures are made, suspects always claim they were imported from Africa but this is unlikely. [We] believe that the wood found at the suspect's house was not for use but waiting to be exported," he said. The DSI would help check the financial trail to try and find a link with a particular timber poacher gang, he said.

The Department of Corrections has asked to make use of the seized wood, but what happens to it will depend on a decision by a committee managing precious woods, Mr Cheewapap said.

Narcotics police were looking to find a link between drug gangs and timber smuggling.

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