Mon, Aug 03, 2015 - Page 3 News List

Suspected hinoki loggers arrested

NANTOU COUNTY:Police investigations led to the arrest of six people in connection with suspected illegal logging of the fragrant Taiwanese yellow cypress on the weekend

By Sean Lin  /  Staff reporter

Police on Saturday arrested six people suspected of illegal logging in Nantou County and retrieved 3,525kg of precious Taiwanese yellow cypress (hinoki) from a refrigerator truck, which officers said might have been used to cover the lumber’s fragrance.

Jhushan Police Precinct Deputy chief Lin Chih-jung (林志榮), who led the operation, said police had been monitoring potentially illegal lumbering activities in Shanlin River Forest Park (杉林溪) — where the suspects hid the consignment of wood — which paved the way for the arrests.

He said the group was led by Yang Ssu-an (楊斯安), 36, who paid three Vietnamese workers NT$5,000 each to lumber the trees.

Lin said that logging groups often hire foreign workers to chop down trees and that Taiwanese are usually responsible for transporting the lumber and contacting potential buyers.

Drugs were also found on one of the suspects, a 48-year-old surnamed Chu (朱), Lin said.

“The drugs and wood have an estimated value of more than NT$4 million (US$126,254) on the black market,” he said.

“As hinoki emits a distinctive fragrance, the suspects used a refrigerator truck to transport the wood, apparently to cover the scent,” Lin said.

The wood had been cut to 85 rectangular blocks of various sizes and the suspects apparently planned to sell them to collectibles stores as “bullions,” he said.

A bullion is a rectangular piece of lacquered wood which some Taiwanese use to pray to maintain prosperity. It is commonly found in collectibles stores specializing in wooden artifacts.

As the wood had already been cut, the actual amount of timber the suspects chopped down was far greater than what was shown in the consignment, Lin said.

Lin said that Yang’s criminal record showed that he has been charged with illegal lumbering activity previously, adding that the suspect had a history of extortion and usury.

The suspects have been detained and could face multiple charges, including illegal possession of narcotics, stealth and breaches of the Forestry Act (森林法), he said.

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