x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Driver charged with smuggling endangered sandalwood into UAE

Port authority workers acting on a tip off seized a container on July 19 last year and found the rare wood inside.

DUBAI // A driver smuggled 600 logs of endangered red sandalwood into the country to avoid paying taxes, a court heard today.

Port authority workers acting on a tip off seized a container on July 19 last year and found the rare wood inside.

The UAE banned the wood from being imported after signing up to a CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) agreement.

Shipping documents claimed the container was carrying only onions, but an X-ray showed the logs in the centre of the container, surrounded by bags of onions.

MG, 42, the head of sea shipping operations at Jebel Ali Port, said the Ministry of Environment and Police were then informed.

The driver AB, 45, from Pakistan, was arrested when he tried to collect the container from customs.

Prosecutors charged him with importing an endangered type of wood without obtaining approval, forging shipment documents and smuggling wood into the country to avoid custom taxes.

The driver denied the charges, saying that someone else had imported the wood. He said his only role was to get the wood past customs.

The Criminal Court scheduled the next hearing for June 5.

salamir@thenational.ae