The defence team representing a man accused of heading up a multimillion-rand abalone enterprise today handed in to the Port Elizabeth High Court a photo of veteran specialist environmental crime prosecutor Martin Le Roux and detectives stirring a pot of abalone.
Defence Advocate Terry Price presented the photo before court in response to the State previously handing in a photo of alleged abalone kingpin Julian Brown – who in his photo appeared to be stirring a huge pot containing abalone at a property in Bluewater Bay.
The archived photo of Brown surfaced on a secret Facebook group, Help Stop Abalone Poaching (HSAPPE) and the State during the trial later handed it in to the court as an exhibit.
In driving a point by handing in a photo of a prosecutor pictured with abalone, the defence is of the view that just because a person is pictured with abalone it did not mean that he was involved in illegal activities.
The photo of Le Roux and Detective Nikki Erasmus was taken at a legal fishing establishment in East London. The investigating team were training at the time and were tasked with obtaining practical knowledge of how abalone was processed illicitly.
Meanwhile, a wealthy Eastern Cape businessperson who assisted Brown in paying R140 000 for his bail and allowed him to live in one of his multiple properties for free, told the Port Elizabeth High Court that Brown was no more than an acquaintance to him.
Jonathan Fowke testified as a defence witness in the ongoing case against Brown who is accused of heading up a multimillion-rand abalone enterprise between January 2015 and April 2016.
Brown is charged alongside Eugene “Boesman” Victor and Brandon Turner, allegedly his right-hand men.
The trio face a string of charges, the most serious of which is racketeering. Brown faces an additional charge of money laundering in relation to the purchase of a luxury Ferrari vehicle.
Fowke, who owns the Thornhill Hotel along with a string of other businesses in the small town, told the court that his businesses in Saudi Arabia and other parts of the world generated a turnover of around R15 million per month.
He said that he made R2 million per month from his local businesses in South Africa. Fowke said that he never had any business dealings with Brown and had met him at a braai during December 2015.
He claimed that Brown could not get finance for a vehicle so he assisted in lending Brown one of his vehicles two months before he was arrested. In April 2016 an explosion occurred at a warehouse which belonged to Fowke. At the time, police discovered abalone at the property.
Fowke told the court that detectives at the scene accused him of running the operation. Fowke claimed to be oblivious as to who was behind the operation at his property, however did concede to providing security at the premises.
State prosecutor Martin le Roux put it to Fowke that a witness had testified about seeing one of his many vehicles with a personalised “JBAY” number plate travel to the warehouse.
Fowke however denied this, saying that his drivers would only use the vehicles to fill up on petrol and at all other times keys were in his possession.
Closing arguments in the case will be heard on Monday.
– African News Agency (ANA)