Six arrested in massive perlemoen bust

Six people, including four foreign nationals, were arrested in Camperdown near Pietermaritzburg on Wednesday morning in what South African Revenue Service (Sars) officials claimed was the country’s second-largest seizure of perlemoen yet.

Sars spokesperson Adrian Lackay said a team of Sars officials, Marine and Coastal Management, the Scorpions and a police special task team converged on the smallholding near Camperdown in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Lackay said between five and six tonnes of perlemoen (abalone) were found. The perlemoen was estimated to have a street value of between R10-million and R12-million. He said it was the biggest seizure yet in KwaZulu-Natal.

The perlemoen was probably collected in the Eastern and Western Cape, and then processed at the Camperdown site before being smuggled out of the country. Cold rooms and drying facilities were found at the smallholding.

”They had a storeroom and had constructed drying racks. There was a heater and fan, which assist in the drying process,” said Lackay.

The six are likely to face charges under the Marine Resources Act for the possession of fish-processing plants and the possession of perlemoen without permits.

Perlemoen is on the Prohibited and Restricted Goods List administered in terms of the Customs and Excise Act, and permits are thus required for exporting it.

In February, 12 people were arrested in Pretoria and perlemoen worth about R10-million was confiscated. In another incident in February, two Chinese nationals and a South African man were arrested for the illegal possession of perlemoen worth about R7-million at a Melkbos house in Cape Town.

In January, 10 people were arrested in Gauteng for the possession of six tonnes of perlemoen with a street value of R10-million. — Sapa

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