The kingpin of a lucrative illegal abalone enterprise, Julian Brown, wept after he was jailed for an effective 18 years in the Port Elizabeth High Court on Friday for racketeering and contravening the Marine Living Resource Act.
Brown, 32, a high school dropout, faced a string of charges between January 2015 and April 2016. He was acquitted on charges of defeating the ends of justice and money laundering linked to the purchase of a luxury Ferrari vehicle.
Shortly after Judge Mandela Makaula handed down the lengthy sentence, Brown wept as he bid farewell to family members.
Brown headed the enterprise alongside Eugene “Boesman” Victor and Brandon Turner.
Victor was sentenced to an effective 15 years behind bars for racketeering, contravening the Marine Living Resource Act, displaying a false licence, forgery, driving without a licence, and possession of abalone.
Turner was jailed for 15 years for racketeering and contravening the Marine Living Resource Act.
All the Section 204 witnesses were indemnified from prosecution except for Phillip Kriel.
Makaula found that Brown ultimately benefited from the enterprise and that he employed Renier Ellerbeck and Edgar Clulow Junior, among others, who had duties within the enterprise.
The judge said Brown showed no remorse during the trial and claimed he had only hired out diving equipment and helped Ellerbeck and Clulow financially.
During the trial, Brown told the court that at the time of his arrest in June 2016, he made use of luxury vehicles which included a Golf 7, two Ford Rangers, and a motorcycle, none of which were registered in his name.
At the time, he also rented out a property for R12,000 per month in South End. He said that he made up to R500,000 per month in turnover from his construction company J&B Construction.
He also didn’t declare taxes and claimed that when he left school, he did not have education about paying tax.
Makaula said Brown had described the Section 204 witnesses as “useless gamblers and drug addicts”, such comments the court found unfortunate especially after it was found they were his employees.
Makaula said that it was deduced abalone was destined for the international market after the court had seen a message on Brown’s phone from a Chinese person who had complained about how the abalone was prepared.
The court further found that light sentences for others involved in the legal fishing and trading of abalone did not act as a deterrent. Makaula said that for that reason, he was unable to hand down a non-custodial sentence.
It was established that Brown and Victor’s involvement in managing the enterprise cut across in the evidence of the Section 204 witnesses and cellphone records.
The court found the evidence clearly demonstrated a violation of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act and that there was a pattern of racketeering activities.
– African News Agency