The case involving an alleged abalone syndicate resumed in the Port Elizabeth Magistrates’ court on Tuesday.
Port Elizabeth businessman Morne Blignault, who is believed to be the kingpin behind the multimillion-rand operation, appeared briefly in court alongside six other co-accused, two of whom are Chinese nationals, Huang Zhenyong and Kekun Pan.
The Chinese nationals were arrested during August 2014 and pleaded guilty to operating an illegal fish processing establishment and are currently serving a three-year sentence each. According to police, the value of the abalone (perlemoen) was estimated to be more than R10 million and had allegedly been paid for by Blignault.
Following their arrests in June, Blignault, Frederick Nance, Petrus Smith and Willie Nance were granted bail of R310 000 combined. Blignault was made to pay R250 000 of the amount stipulated by the court.
According to court documents, each one of the suspects had a particular job to do in what was described as a massive abalone smuggling enterprise.
Court documents described the workings of a factory-like operation, with duties including cooking, packaging, storing and transporting the endangered species.
Abalone, gas and salt were transported to the processing establishment at a Motherwell farm, where the abalone was cooked, dried and packed at a warehouse. The dried product was then transported to a house in Bridgemead.
According to the state, Blignault headed up the lucrative syndicate while his alleged right-hand man Jacob Naumann took up a managerial role. Naumann is currently being detained.
According to police, the Nances and Smith were mainly responsible for the transportation of the abalone to and from the illegal establishment.
Blignault’s ex-wife Marshelle, who is also implicated in the case, was subsequently released on bail of R20 000.
On Tuesday the court warned the accused not make contact with any witnesses.
The case was postponed until December 12 for copies of the docket and for certain video footage to be obtained.
Meanwhile, Eugene Victor and Brad Turner appeared separately in another abalone case, where charges against them include racketeering.
The suspected head of the alleged multimillion-rand abalone syndicate, Julian Brown, did not appear alongside Victor and Turner on Tuesday. Another accused, Edgar Clulow, was also not present at court. Last month Brown was released on bail of R800 000.
Brown is accused of heading the enterprise in which he allegedly employed his co-accused.
That case was postponed until October 4.
– African News Agency (ANA)