Details of the incident at Jebel Ali Port emerged as prosecutors tried the Sri Lankan in absentia on Monday. The man, who was in the shipping business, remains at large.

Dubai Court of First Instance was told that the suspect tried to bring red sandalwood, which is banned because of its endangered status, into the port on July 9, 2013.

Prosecutors said the suspect knew that the container would be searched so he phoned one of the port inspectors, an Emirati, and offered him a bribe.

The officer testified: “He called me and asked for help to allow a container with banned, red sandalwood into the country.”

The inspector told his director, who asked him to play along and pretend to help him. The inspector said: “He offered me Dhs50,000, but I asked for Dhs80,000 and he agreed.”

The next day, the two met and the accused gave the inspector the necessary papers for the container and a cheque of Dhs80,000.

It was at that point that Dubai Customs inspectors apprehended the man and phoned the police.

But the inspector said: “We arrested him and called Dubai Police. He asked the security guard to go to the bathroom and then escaped before police arrived.”

Judge Mohammad Jamal adjourned.

The CITES agreement bans importing the red sandalwood. The timber is highly prized in China and can be used to make traditional medicine, facial products and soaps.