Kingpin’s wife managed perlemoen finances
It was convicted perlemoen poaching and racketeering kingpin Morne Blignault’s exwife, Marshelle, who managed the finances of their illegal operation, and some of the lackeys were paid in drugs, a court heard on Thursday.
Details of how the illegal enterprise was set up and run to reap millions of rands in profit were heard in the Port Elizabeth High Court.
Presentencing proceedings for five people – Marshelle, three employees and a man considered to have been at the wrong place at the wrong time – shed further light on how Blignault set up and ran one of the Eastern Cape’s biggest perlemoen processing operations.
Marshelle, 40, Jacob (Japie) Naumann, 34, Frederick (Frikkie) Nance, 24, Petrus (Pietie) Smith, 31 and Willie Nance, 56, pleaded guilty to charges including racketeering and contravening the Marine Living Resources Act in August after their case was separated from that of Blignault, who had pleaded not guilty.
Blignault was sentenced on Wednesday to 20 years after being convicted on two charges of racketeering and one of contravening the act.
He changed his plea after being faced with overwhelming evidence, including surveillance footage from the Oliphantskop farm where perlemoen was processed.
Giving evidence in aggravation of sentencing, investigating officer Warrant Officer Leon Eksteen told how after a year of investigating, police raided the farm and arrested three people there in August 2014.
Huang Zhenyong, 32, and Pan Kekun, 53, of China, were sentenced to three years each for contravening the act.
They were charged with racketeering and deported to China after pleading guilty.
The third person arrested, Brett Killian, 29, turned state witness in May 2015.
Eksteen told how Marshelle managed the finances while Naumann initially scouted out the farm and paid rent to owner Johannes Erasmus.
Frederick Nance and Smith transported the perlemoen to and from the farm. Nance snr only once transported perlemoen on his son’s behalf.
Eksteen told the court that Nance jnr, Naumann and Smith were paid on average R1,000 a week, sometimes receiving it in the form of drugs.
Sentencing proceedings are set to continue on Tuesday.