Suspected key figures in major perlemoen poaching syndicate released on bail

Several suspects in a massive perlemoen poaching case, in which nine marine inspectors from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) were arrested for allegedly being part of a smuggling syndicate, were on Wednesday granted bail in the Cape Town Regional Court.

A total of 19 suspects were arrested in March. It is alleged that department officials sold back confiscated perlemoen to others, who were also taken into custody on suspicion of being part of the syndicate.

The officials also allegedly escorted illegal consignments of perlemoen.

They face charges, including corruption and racketeering.

READ: Marine inspectors bust for allegedly aiding abalone syndicate

On Wednesday, the suspects appeared in the Cape Town Regional Court.

Attorney Bruce Hendricks confirmed to News24 that his client, Donovan Williams, a suspected syndicate member, was among those granted bail - in his case R50 000 - and released from custody.

Hendricks said he was happy that his client had been released on bail.

Among those who were denied bail were marine inspector Adam Baadjies and suspected syndicate member Preston Julies.

Suspected areas of operation

The alleged syndicate is believed to have operated in Gansbaai, Hermanus, Hawston, Bredasdorp, Stanford, Pearly Beach and Kuilsriver.

The suspects are expected back in the Cape Town Regional Court on July 27 and the case may at some stage be transferred to the Western Cape High Court.

Earlier on Wednesday, police announced that R5m worth of abalone had been seized in a crackdown operation outside of Cape Town.

READ: Police seize abalone worth R5m after high-speed chase near Gordon's Bay

Police spokesperson Sergeant Noloyiso Rwexana said police officers in Gordon’s Bay were tipped off by colleagues in Grabouw that a vehicle transporting abalone was heading their way.

"The vehicle, a white Toyota Verso was spotted on the R44, and upon noticing police presence, the driver made a U-turn and fled," Rwexana said.

"Following a high speed pursuit,  the driver abandoned the vehicle and fled on foot… The vehicle was searched, which led to the discovery of 8 330 shelled abalone."

The suspect is yet to be arrested. 

Small holding raided in Crime Intel operation

On May 31, in another bust, and following a joint operation which included Crime Intelligence officers and detectives, a smallholding on the outskirts of Atlantis, a town about 40km from Cape Town, was raided.

An illegal perlemoen processing facility was discovered and two men were arrested.

Police had said that large amounts of perlemoen were in the process of being dried and equipment - including a massive steel cooking pot, gas cylinders and fans - was confiscated.

The perlemoen was estimated to be worth about R1.5m.