Abalone smuggling syndicate dismantled | News24

One of the suspects arrested by Hawks for his alleged involvement in an abalone smuggling syndicate.

One of the suspects arrested by Hawks for his alleged involvement in an abalone smuggling syndicate.

Three Overberg men are among seven suspects arrested by the Serious Organized Crime Investigation Team early Monday morning in connection with their alleged involvement in an abalone smuggling syndicate.

Reliable sources have confirmed that one of the suspects is a law enforcement official employed by a local municipality in Overberg. Another suspect is believed to be a well-known builder based in the Hermanus area.

The seven suspects aged between 45 and 65 were arrested during a multi-disciplinary operation led by the Western Cape Priority Criminal Investigation Department (Hawks) team, supported by public order police and the anti-gang unit attached to Overberg. District.

These suspects and their co-accused as well as an export company are linked to the 12 cases dating back to 2016 and involved the seizure of 25.3 tonnes of abalone with an estimated value of more than R37 million.

Zinzi Hani, provincial spokesperson for the Hawks, reported that a total of 77 charges stemmed from these 12 cases. The union, she explained, operated mainly in the Western Cape and Gauteng.

An eighth suspect, Jianxian Wu, was arrested in Britz, in the Northwest. He was transported to George where he first appeared in the George Regional Court on May 21.

Hani confirmed that Wu remained in custody awaiting a formal bail application and was scheduled to appear in court on Tuesday, June 11, with his co-defendants.

All suspects face charges of illegally transporting and storing abalone, operating an illegal fish processing establishment, and illegally exporting abalone.

“In addition, the suspects will also be charged under the Prevention of Organized Crime Act for money laundering and running the affairs of a criminal enterprise through racketeering activities,” Hani said.

A source confirmed that some of these charges stem from a 2016 incident in which two Chinese nationals were arrested during a special operation on a farm outside Greyton carried out by the Hawks and the unit special investigation by the Ministry of Forests, Fisheries and the Environment.

More than 2,000 dried abalone as well as equipment including gas burners, dryers and huge pots with an estimated street value of R5.7 million were seized in the operation. The suspects were sentenced after entering into a plea agreement with the state.