Nine foreign nationals were arrested on Tuesday, October 12, for smuggling abalone with an estimated value of more than R20.2 million. The suspects were arrested in two different specialized operations by the Hawks’ Serious Organised Crime Investigation team together with the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE), Crime Intelligence, SAPS K9 Overberg Cluster.
According to a police statement, two Chinese nationals and two Zimbabwean nationals aged between 24 to 27 were arrested for operating an illegal abalone processing facility in Welgemoed, Bellville. Dried abalone units with an approximate value of R6.5 million as well as abalone processing equipment were seized in the process.
Kenyan and Somali nationals aged 23 and 30 were arrested in Stikland when the Bellville team seized more abalone and equipment valued at more than R13 million. The team then proceeded to Parow where another illegal processing facility was unveiled. Two Chinese nationals and a Zimbabwean national aged between 25 to 26 were arrested after more units of abalone were seized.
The suspects were then charged and are due to make their first court appearance in the Bellville Magistrates’ Court on Thursday, October 14. The arrest of the nine suspects also comes after two men were sentenced to a year in jail by the Cape Town Regional Court for dealing in abalone.
HAWKS spokesperson, Zinzi Hani says 36-year-old Lawrence Muroma and 28-year-old Qing Quen Feng were arrested in May this year by the HAWKS in Philadelphia near Atlantis. Hani says the men pleaded guilty on all charges which included money laundering, landing, selling and the transportation of abalone.