Cape Town – The 2018 case of two men who were members of an abalone poaching syndicate, headed by two foreign nationals based in Cape Town and Gauteng, has ended with both being convicted in the Cape Town Regional Court.
While the two masterminds behind the syndicate are on the run, having skipped bail, Denver Langenhoven and Solomon Sauls are the only two who have been successfully convicted in court so far.
Last week, Langenhoven and Sauls were found guilty of 260 charges of racketeering, corruption, defeating the ends of justice and contravening the Marine Living Resources Act.
According to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) the pair, who played an integral part in the syndicate, operated in Gansbaai, Hermanus, Hawston, Bredasdorp, Stanford, Pearly Beach and Kuils River.
The NPA said that some of the people who had been charged together with Langehoven and Sauls had turned State witness during the case and had been exempted from prosecution. Others had applied for separation trials after a few appearances in court. The group was arrested in March 2018.
DA Western Cape spokesperson on agriculture, Andricus van der Westhuizen, welcomed the convictions.
“These convictions come as a win for the fishing community and preservation of our oceanic environment,” he said.
“The provincial standing committee on agriculture, environmental affairs and development planning recently found that the poaching of illegal abalone is valued at a staggering R1.6 billion in the Western Cape.”
“Eighty percent of abalone farms are in the Western Cape and they function as a primary employer in many coastal communities. The opportunity exists for eight to 10 abalone ranches in the province, allowing the industry the opportunity to address the issue of poverty, which is seen to contribute to the high levels of poaching … We also have a diverse ocean wildlife that contributes significantly to the fishing and tourism industries. The decentralisation of control over our marine resources will also allow the province to conserve abalone. Current levels of abalone poaching may lead to the extinction of this resource.
“In the last quarter of 2019, abalone poaching was reclassified as a serious crime that would be investigated by the SAPS’s Organised Crime Unit.”
According to a report by the Abalone Farmers’ Association of Southern Africa, “abalone farming provides up to 1 500 direct jobs”.
The report said: “The illegal abalone industry, on the other hand, involves between 5 000 and 10 000 people and is so pervasive that entire communities have been criminalised.”