The court also ordered him to pay a fine of Nu 0.915 million

Verdict: As the Haa valley remained covered in a blanket of snow, the district court yesterday handed over a 22-year old farmer to police after he was found guilty of smuggling 962.5 kgs of red sander wood (Pterocarpus santalinus) across the northern border last year.

Following a different law provision as per the Supreme Court’s order of January 1, 2015, the court sentenced defendant Kinley Tshering from Katsho gewog a non-compoundable prison term of three years. The court also ordered him to pay Nu 721,875 as the cost of the red sander wood, Nu 100,000 for 20 horses involved in transporting the illegal consignment and a lump sum fine of Nu 50,000 to the forestry account within a month.

In October 2013, the ministry of forests and agriculture appended penalties on the illegal trade of red sander wood, where a fine of Nu 750  per kg is imposed after confiscating the product.

The patrolling team from Royal Bhutan Army (RBA) in Damthang encountered red sander wood smuggler on July 2, 2014 at Lorithang area. They apprehended 20 horses loaded with sander wood and two horses with administrative stores. However, Kinley Tshering had managed to escape.

The seized consignment of 1,020 kgs of red sander wood was handed over to the Range Forest office in Haa on July 3. Kinley Tshering was arrested a week later after the RBA informed the police. Accordingly, Kinley Tshering was imposed a total fine of Nu 0.915 million, including compensation for 1,020kgs of red sander wood.

However, Kinley Tshering refused to pay the total amount after having paid Nu 100,000. Forests officials then filed a case against him at the district court in November last year.

Kinley Tshering admitted that he brought the consignment from India to smuggle across the northern border. However, he said that the total weight of the sander wood would be lower and requested the court to weigh again. The court in presence of the both parties weighed again and found it to be 962.5kgs.

“Had he paid the fine and compensation to the range office, the matter would have been solved there,” a forest official said after the court’s ruling.

Passing the judgment, drangpon Duba Dukpa said that there could have been more people involved in this particular smuggling case, as it was not possible for one person to handle such heavy consignment with 20 horses.

The court also issued an order that henceforth such cases should be prosecuted only by the Office of the Attorney General and not by the forestry office.

Red sander wood, also known as red sandalwood, is believed to be used in making cosmetic products, furniture and musical instruments. Sandalwood is ferried from South India through Phuentsholing and then to Paro and Haa and smuggled to China.

Rinzin Wangchuk, Haa