Police seize R10m illegal abalone

Johannesburg - Police have shut down an illegal abalone-drying facility and seized six tons of the gourmet mollusc with an estimated street value of R10m, one of their biggest busts against international poaching rings.

Police spokesperson Kholekile Galawe said two Chinese men and a South African had been arrested during the raid on a remote farm in the Eastern Cape. They were cooking and drying the perlemoen.

"Little did they know that the long arm of the law would reach them in their hideout," Galawe said in a statement.

The three men will appear in court on Wednesday.

Destined for trendy restaurants in Hong Kong and China, abalone - dubbed "white gold" after its pearly flesh - can fetch up to R4 500/kg on the black market, and nearly three times that in Asia, experts say.

Johannesburg police arrested four people in July at another drying plant that yielded nearly five tons of illegally caught abalone. Rampant poaching is driving the species to the brink of extinction in the southern Africa region, experts say.