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Friday November 16, 2012

Gaharu thieves’ mini village was the ‘perfect hideout’

GEORGE TOWN: A group of agarwood tree (gaharu) thieves set up four large camps deep inside a jungle near Mount Erskine to cleverly hide their location from view.

Their “mini village” had a kitchen, a storage place and a workshop to process the agarwood.

It was a perfect hideout until the state Forestry Department officers busted it on Monday.

A stockpile of food comprising some 10kg of rice, cooking oil, canned food and vegetables enough to last several people for at least two weeks was confiscated.

Department officers visited the site again yesterday and recovered several pieces of low quality agarwood.

“We believe the higher quality ones were sold earlier,” said state Forestry Department director Abdul Wahab Deraman.

Two Cambodians were arrested during the ambush on Monday while two others managed to flee the scene.

Two large pieces of agarwood, believed to be worth between RM50,000 and RM100,000, were also seized in Monday's raid.

According to veteran hiker Gurdial Singh, even regular hikers and mountain bikers had not stumbled upon the “hideout”.

“Access to their mini village' is via an undiscovered path and you would have to go in from Point 8 on the hill behind the Mount Erskine wet market,” he said.

Gurdial tipped off the department on Sunday after coming across five felled trees while running near Taman Lembah Permai in Tanjung Bungah.

The oil from gaharu resin is highly prized in the Middle East and can fetch up to RM20,000 per kilo.

The oil is used as a base for perfumes due to its fresh and woody scent.

It is also used as a key ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine for various ailments.

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