‘We will stop plunder of SA marine resources’ – Hawks hail abalone conviction

20 January 2017 - 16:08 By Aron Hyman
A Hawks police vehicle. File Photo.
A Hawks police vehicle. File Photo.
Image: Gallo Images / Beeld / Felix Dlangamandla

A harbour work stoppage inadvertently helped convict four South Africans for smuggling abalone to Hong Kong.

Three Chinese nationals are already serving jail time as the Hawks vow to clamp down on organised crime syndicates operating in South Africa.

On Friday‚ four Western Cape men were found guilty of smuggling abalone valued at R20 million.

The men were the owners of a fresh produce company specifically set up to smuggle abalone to East Asia. More than seven tons of South African abalone would have made it to Hong Kong had the shipping company not received a phone call from one of the Hawks’ crack abalone sleuths ordering three containers to be returned to South Africa.

Hawks spokesperson Captain Lloyd Ramovha said 77‚292 units weighing 7‚065 kg of abalone was seized during the operation. One of the containers had already been offloaded in Hong Kong but two others were returned. Details of the case emerged in the Khayelitsha Magistrate’s Court on Friday.

The syndicate wanted to smuggle the abalone amongst a cargo of potatoes but a strike at the harbour resulted in the potatoes going bad.

The syndicate‚ fearing that authorities would check the bags for quality inspection‚ decided to repack the dried produce in large bags of plastic granules which are used to manufacture plastic products.

The bags syndicate operated from two houses in the Cape Town suburb of Table View and a warehouse in Vredenburg.

“Abri Filipe Bucchianeri (30)‚ Cecil George Kruger (63)‚ Sean Kruger (32)‚ Busobenkosi Matera (34)‚ have been found guilty by the Khayelitsha Magistrate’s Court on Friday for racketeering‚ money laundering‚ fraud and contraventions of the Marine Living Resources Act‚” said Ramovha.

“It is alleged that the quartet through Virdon Trading CC‚ an entity allegedly registered during 2010‚ licensed to export fresh produce‚ participated in unlawful activities that involved intricate planning and continuous looting‚ storing‚ and exporting of abalone overseas‚” he said.

The entity’s operations were brought to an abrupt end when the Hawks pounced on Bucchianeri and Kruger in a search and seizure operation in their Vredenburg premises during July 2010.

Three Chinese nationals who were also arrested during the operation opted to enter into a plea bargain. They have served a three-year direct jail sentence. The Hawks Western Cape provincial head‚ Major General Nombuso Khoza‚ welcomed the judgment and commended the investigating team for a job well done.

“This is a welcome boost to our endeavours in fighting crime and it resonates with our resolve to paralyze the criminal business systems‚” Khoza said in a statement.

“We hope this verdict dissuades those who still plan to plunder our marine resources from continuing to do so. Specialised Investigation is in the DNA of the Directorate For Priority Crime Investigation (the Hawks)‚” she said.

“We shall continue to investigate and combat national priority offences‚ chiefly the investigation and dismantling of serious organised crime syndicates‚ serious commercial crime and serious corruption‚” she said.

- TMG Digital/The Times