The ex-wife of a suspected perlemoen syndicate leader will appear in court today after she was arrested for secretly recording Hawks investigators as they interrogated suspects in a multimillion-rand racketeering case.
The dramatic arrest comes as details emerged of how Morne Blignault, 46, ordered his “staff” to undergo lie-detector tests, and how perlemoen juice – which seeps from the shellfish – was allegedly discovered in a freezer on the premises of a Cape Road law firm.
While Marchelle Blignault, 40, is accused of contravening the Rica Act after she was allegedly caught snooping at the Hawks’ Newton Park offices on Monday, Blignault continues to fight for bail in a Paterson court, after he was nabbed on a second perlemoen-related charge in a matter of months.
In that case, Blignault is accused alongside his son, Morne jnr, 26.
Marchelle will apply for bail in the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court today amid allegations that she was brazenly recording what was happening inside a Hawks officer’s office.
Marchelle, Blignault, and his alleged righthand man, Japie Naumann, 35, are due to stand trial in the Port Elizabeth High Court in November on charges which include racketeering.
In an affidavit before the Paterson Magistrate’s Court, the Organised Crime Unit’s Captain Kanna Swanepoel, said they had zoned in on Blignault and his son following the arrest of alleged syndicate employee Jan Prinsloo earlier this year.
Prinsloo was arrested on February 8 and, in his court appearances which followed, Blignault, Morne jnr and Naumann showed a keen interest.
Prinsloo was nabbed when a stop-and-search just outside Paterson allegedly uncovered 6 013 units of perlemoen inside his red Isuzu bakkie.
Blignault and Morne jnr were arrested last month when they were allegedly linked to that consignment of perlemoen. Police found a licence disc inside the vehicle linked to the VW driven by Morne jnr.
On February 25, Prinsloo, represented by attorney Alwyn Griebenow, was granted bail of R20 000.
It was later discovered that the red Isuzu had been hijacked in Lorraine on January 20.
Swanepoel said after Prinsloo’s phone was analysed by the cyber crimes unit, it was discovered that he had a close relationship with Naumann.
Further details in Swanepoel’s affidavit outline exactly how they linked Blignault and his son to the alleged offence.
He said cellphone billing showed Morne jnr and Naumann were travelling in the same direction – presumably in a different vehicle – when Prinsloo allegedly transported the perlemoen on February 8.
“Prinsloo was caught at approximately 10.05pm,” Swanepoel said. “On the same evening, Blignault sent an SMS to Griebenow at 10.45pm and he responded at 11.25pm.”
Communication between Blignault and Griebenow continued until the early hours of the next morning.
“Investigations revealed that the red Isuzu bakkie was at the premises of a mechanic in Glen Hurd some time prior to February 8,” Swanepoel said.
“A member of a security company then informed me that the bakkie had been seen at [an attorney’s firm] in Cape Road on the evening of February 8.
“A storeroom on the premises was searched and freezers with perlemoen remnants were found. The attorney referred us back to [the mechanic] because according to him, [the mechanic] was the key-holder to this store.”
Swanepoel said the attorney – who is not named in the affidavit – then put them in contact with a person who professed to be an expert in lie-detector tests.
“Blignault employed this expert to conduct lie-detector tests on four of his employees in his illegal perlemoen business as he suspected one of them of stealing perlemoen,” he said.
Prinsloo and Paul Bezuidenhout were two of those who had undergone the test.
“Bezuidenhout admitted his involvement in the illegal perlemoen business, [allegedly] run by the Blignaults and Naumann,” he said.
Blignault, Morne jnr and Naumann will continue with their bail applications next week.