HEFTY SENTENCE IMPOSED ON ABALONE SYNDICATE

Western Cape- The Hawks’ Provincial Head in Western Cape, Major General Nombuso Portia Khoza has welcomed the sentences imposed by the Cape Town High Court on five suspects who operated an illegal abalone enterprise syndicate on Monday, 19 March 2017.

The Hawks intelligence driven investigation 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 over R21 000 000 was seized and 18 suspects were arrested and brought to court.

Steven Phillip Muller (57), Willie van Rensburg (45), 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 121 of 1998 (POCA).

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

Tony Peter Du Toit was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment on POCA charge and 8 months on each of the 27 counts of contravention with Marine Living Resources Act 18/1998. He will effectively serve 15 years imprisonment as the charges are running concurrently.

Steven Phillip Muller was sentenced to 4 years imprisonment on POCA charge and 6 months on each of the 15 counts of contravention with Marine Living Resources Act 18/1998. He will effectively serve 4 years imprisonment as the charges are running concurrently.

Willie van Rensburg, was sentenced to 8 years imprisonment on POCA charge and 8 months on each of the 10 counts of contravention with Marine Living Resources Act 18/1998. He will effectively serve 8 years imprisonment as the charges are running concurrently.

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

During the court processes one of the suspects died, three absconded and a warrant of arrest have been issued. Other six 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.

Meanwhile, the 17 Suspects arrested in Gansbay as part of the clamp down on abalone syndicate in the province, appeared in Cape Town Regional Court on Monday and the matter was postponed to the 10 April 2018 for bail application. They still remain in custody.