By Thupeyo Muleya
A 35-YEAR-OLD Zimbabwean and a Chinese (28) who were recently arrested by South Africa’s organized crime unit, the Hawks for illegal possession of dried abalone worth nearly R10 million are set to make a formal bail application tomorrow at the Atlantis Magistrate’s Court, in Western Cape province.
Lawrence Muroma and Qing Quan Feng were found in possession of 70 boxes dried abalone on May 16.
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 of illegal abalone in terms of the Marine Living Resources Act 18 of 1998.
“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 the accused persons were traveling in a Hino truck and a white Audi along the N7 highway 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. The truck was being driven by the Zimbabwean whilst the Chinese drove 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.
Meanwhile, Beitbridge Resident Magistrate Mr Takudzwa Gwamba has remanded to June 16, Frank Mavakise of Beitbridge and Yang Rock Kawase, a Congolese who were last week arrested for smuggling into Zimbabwe abalone shelf fish worth R8,4 million using a truck that was in transit to Zambia.
The two were each released on $20 000 bail pending trial.
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. The Chronicle