South Africa 22.3.2018 09:49 am

Hefty sentences for Cape Town abalone syndicate members

Hefty sentences for Cape Town abalone syndicate members

An investigation by the Hawks exposed export companies which were dealing with illegal abalone exports concealed in containers and shipped to China.

The Cape Town High Court this week slapped members of an abalone syndicate with hefty sentences of up to 15 years’ imprisonment.

An investigation by the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) exposed export companies, which were dealing with illegal abalone exports concealed in containers and shipped to China.

Various Fish Establishment Process plants were raided, and abalone worth more than R21 million was seized, and 18 suspects were arrested and brought to court.

Steven Phillip Muller (57), Willie van Rensburg (45), Adrian Gavin Wildschutt (42), Tony Du Toit (62)and Johannes Liebenberg(45) were found guilty of numerous charges that included contravention of Marine Living Resources Act (act no. 18 of 1998) as well as Prevention of Organised Crime Act (POCA) 121 of 1998.

Wildschutt was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment on POCA charge and 8 months on each of the 12 counts of contravention of Marine Living Resources Act 18/1998. He will effectively serve 15 years’ imprisonment as the charges are running concurrently.

Du Toit was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment on POCA charge and eight months on each of the 27 counts of contravention of the Marine Living Resources Act 18/1998. He will effectively serve 15 years’ imprisonment as the charges are running concurrently.

Muller was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment on POCA charge and six months on each of the 15 counts of contravention of the Marine Living Resources Act 18/1998. He will effectively serve four years imprisonment as the charges are running concurrently.

Van Rensburg, was sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment on POCA charge and eight months on each of the 10 counts of contravention of the Marine Living Resources Act 18/1998. He will effectively serve eight years imprisonment as the charges are running concurrently.

Liebenberg was sentenced to one-year imprisonment on one count of contravention with Marine Living Resources Act 8/1998, wholly suspended with stringent conditions.

During the court processes one of the suspects died, three absconded and warrants of arrest were issued.  Six other suspects who were workers on these entities’ plants entered into plea agreements and were all given suspended sentences while three were found not guilty and released.

Hawks’ provincial head in Western Cape Major-General Nombuso Portia Khoza has welcomed the sentences imposed by the Cape Town High Court on Monday.

Meanwhile, 17 suspects nabbed in Gansbay as part of the clamp down on abalone syndicate in the province, appeared in the Cape Town Regional Court on Monday. The matter was postponed to the 10 April, when the suspects will apply for bail. They remain in custody.

– African News Agency (ANA)

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