Sentenced poacher faces more jail time
Morné Blignault, 46, and four other men are charged with racketeering and running an illicit perlemoen smuggling enterprise
Perlemoen poaching kingpin Morné Blignault, sentenced in September to 20 years in jail, is in court again, facing the possibility of a stiff new sentence.
Blignault, 46, and four other men are charged with racketeering and running an illicit perlemoen smuggling enterprise out of a North End panelbeating shop between November 2016 and January 2017.
Blignault was out on bail at the time after having been charged in connection with a multimillion-rand perlemoendrying operation at an Olifantskop farm which resulted in his 20-year prison sentence.
The case drills deep into an apparent web of organised crime extending through Nelson Mandela Bay with multiple premises, accounts and alleged crimes built around the illegal poaching and smuggling of perlemoen, a threatened species of shellfish highly sought after in the Far East.
On Friday in the Port Elizabeth High Court, state witness Mark Adams described how a bakkie allegedly loaded with bags of perlemoen would pull into Auto Body Concepts in Edgar Lane, where he worked, and he would help unload the perlemoen and pack it into freezer containers.
The bakkie was always manned either by Jan Prinsloo, Paul Bezuidenhout or Simphiwe Kosi, he testified.
Prinsloo, 31, and Bezuidenhout, 22, sitting in the dock together with fellow accused Blignault, alleged second-incommand Jacob Naumann, 35, and Morné Blignault junior, 26, listened attentively, alternately shaking their heads and shooting glances at supporters in the gallery.
Kosi died of a heart attack a while ago.
Adams admitted that he had at one point stolen several bags of perlemoen during the transfer process and had hidden them in his garage.
When he tried to sell them to a side buyer, he was told they were becoming rotten and he had not received much money for them, he said.
The prosecution alleges that Blignault had, meanwhile, realised that some of the contraband was disappearing and had organised for his gang to undergo a lie detector test at a premises at 142 Cape Road.
According to the prosecution, after Adams was exposed as the culprit, Blignault assaulted him and the matter was only settled after Auto Body Concepts owner Johan Grobler intervened.
Grobler allegedly organised R200,000 to be paid into the account of Blignault’s daughter Nicolle to cover the stolen contraband.
The first hint of the illegal perlemoen enterprise in North End came on February 8 2017 when police Capt Hendrik “Ribbetjies” Erasmus arrested Prinsloo in an Isuzu double-cab bakkie on the N2 near Paterson.
The vehicle was allegedly full to the brimwith 6, 013 units of perlemoen weighing 700kgand was subsequently confirmed to have been stolen.
A licence disk for another vehicle belonging to Morné junior was found in the bakkie and analysis of Prinsloo’s cellphone provided further clues indicating he was being escorted – before his was arrest – by two other gang members.
The red Isuzu was later tracked to the same Cape Road address where Blignault had earlier allegedly confronted his employees over stolen perlemoen.
According to earlier testimony by Swanepoel, a freezer with traces of perlemoen juice inside was found in a storeroom at the same premises.
State prosecutor Martin le Roux praised Erasmus and his colleagues Capt Kanna Swanepoel, Warrant Officer Leon Eksteen and Sergeant Armien Humphries for their excellent detective work.
“This case would not have got this far if it were not for them.”
The case continues on Monday.