CAPE TOWN– The Directorate of Priority Crime Investigation of the South African police, better known as the Hawks, in Western Cape province has welcomed the hefty sentences imposed on five suspects who operated an illegal abalone enterprise.
The members of the syndicate were sentenced by the Cape Town High Court on Monday. Steven Phillip Muller, Willie van Rensburg , Gavin Wildschutt , Tony Du Toit and Johannes Liebenberg were found guilty on numerous charges, including contravention of the Marine Living Resources Act as well as the Prevention of Organized Crime Act (POCA).
The Hawks’ intelligence-driven investigation exposed their export companies which were dealing with illegally harvested abalone concealed in containers and shipped to China. Various places were raided and abalone worth more than 21 million Rand (about 1.77 million US dollars) was seized and 18 suspects were arrested and brought to Court.
Wildschutt and Du Toit were sentenced to 15 years imprisonment on POCA and other charges such as contravention of the Marine Living Resources Act 18/1998, Van Rensburg was sentenced to eight years imprisonment, while Muller was sentenced to four years imprisonment. Liebenberg was sentenced to one year imprisonment on one count of contravention of the Marine Living Resources Act 8/1998 which was wholly suspended with stringent conditions.
During the court processes, one of the suspects linked to the syndicate died, three absconded and warrants of arrest have been issued. The other six suspects, who were workers of these entities, entered into plea agreements and were all given suspended sentences while three were found not guilty and released.
Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK