Thupeyo Muleya Beitbridge Bureau
Bail application for a 35-year-old Zimbabwean and a Chinese (28) who were recently arrested by South Africa’s organised crime unit the Hawks, for illegal possession of dried abalone worth nearly R10 million, was yesterday postponed to today.
Lawrence Muroma and Qing Quan Feng, who were found in possession of 70 boxes of dried abalone on May 16, appeared before the Atlantis Magistrate Court in Western Cape on Monday.
The trading of abalone shellfish, which is regarded as an endangered species, is prohibited in most SADC countries.
The shellfish is a unique type of snail classified under the gastropod phylum-Mollusca and is often referred to as the sea ear because of its flattened shape.
This type of seafood is considered a delicacy in Asia.
Hawks’ spokesperson for Western Cape Ms Zinzi Hani said the two have been charged for possession and transporting illegal abalone in terms of the Marine Living Resources Act 18 of 1998.
“The formal bail application process will continue on June 9 and the two accused persons remain in custody,” said Ms Hani.
“They were arrested after members of our Serious Organised Crime Investigation, Crime Intelligence, and officials from the Department of Environmental Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) acted on information concerning the transportation of illegal abalone.”
She said two accused persons were traveling in a Hino truck and a white Audi along the N7 highway and heading towards Malmesbury.
Ms Hani said the two men were stopped at a service station in Philadelphia for searches leading to the discovery of the dried abalone which was hidden in a false compartment beneath.
The Hino truck, she said, was driven by the Zimbabwean whilst the Chinese drive the Audi.
“The two vehicles were searched leading to the discovery of dried abalone in a hidden compartment underneath the Hino truck.
“The vehicles were then taken to Philadelphia police station for further investigation, where it was discovered that the 70 boxes contained 23 896 dried abalones with an estimated street value of R9.9 million,” she said.
In the last five years, six people have been arrested by SAPS smuggling the shellfish to either Botswana, Zimbabwe, or Mozambique.
A few weeks ago, Limpopo police arrested three men transporting abalone shellfish worth R7 Million to a yet unidentified destination via Beitbridge Port of Entry.
Boitumelo Rasakanya (26), Merven Phiri (33), and Jack Kgobe (36) were intercepted on 31 January near the City of Polokwane traveling in a grey NP200 pick-up truck.
The trio was arrested during an Intelligence-led Joint operation while transporting 37 boxes full of abalone with the estimated value of R7 million which were laden in the pick-up truck.