Asset cops chase perly kingpin’s loot
We are coming for everything you own – from your property, cars and jewellery right down to your pot lids and extension cords.
That was the message the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) delivered – loud and clear – to perlemoen kingpin Morne Blignault, his ex-wife Marshelle and his son, Morne Junior.
The message came by way of court action taken by the unit, which on Tuesday obtained a final restraining order stopping all three Blignaults from selling an array of goods it believes were amassed as a result of criminal activities.
Should the Blignaults try to sell any of the goods, they face a prison term of up to 15 years.
The next step is for a judge to decide how much of the property – thought to worth anywhere between R6m and R67m – can be seized by the state.
The final restraining order confirmed a provisional order dated October 9 – following the sentencing of Blignault in the Port Elizabeth High Court in September.
Blignault, 46, and Marshelle, 40, are listed in court documents as defendants in the matter, while Morne Jnr, 26, is listed as a respondent because he is alleged to have received “affected gifts”.
The restraint order was granted unopposed after being brought by AFU state prosecutor advocate Warren Myburgh.
The order effectively freezes a myriad of assets listed in an affidavit by investigating officer Warrant Officer Leon Eksteen.
Next month the high court will hear arguments as to why assets should be seized from Morne Jnr.
Items on the list, some of which are already being held by the police for safekeeping, paint a picture of a swanky lifestyle enjoyed by the family, with Blignault and Marshelle apparently avid coin collectors.
They amassed a collection that included a gold Queen Anne coin in a pendant, a Mandela coin and two Manchester United coins.
Their jewellery collection included gemstones such as a 4.5-carat red/pink ruby as well as stones listed as blue, red and red/pink gemstones.
The pair own at least seven cameras and 18 watches between them. Bangles, bracelets, cufflinks and a diamond ring also appear on the nine pages of listed assets.
National Prosecuting Authority regional spokesperson Tsepo Ndwalaza said the sole rationale behind the freezing order was to preserve the assets which the state claims were procured through the illegal perlemoen poaching activities the court found the Blignaults were party to. “This means they are not allowed to sell the assets or move them. Otherwise, in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act, they could face a jail term of up to 15 years,” Ndwalaza said.
Morne Jnr is alleged to have benefited substantially from the illegal enterprise run by his parents.
Ndwalaza said a judge would need to decide the value of assets the AFU could seize.
This, he said, could range between R6m and R67m.
“R67m is the rough estimate that they [the Blignault’s] benefited from [these crimes].”
In the schedule of known assets, assets listed in Blignault and Marshelle’s names include:
● Five properties in Humewood, Kragga Kamma, Sidwell and Van Stadens River;
● 10 different business interests, including Club Shakes in North End, the Red Lion Pub and Grub, a pawn shop and a panel beaters;
● Various items used to process perlemoen, including 18 25kg bags of salt, gas cylinders, bins, scales and gas masks.
Assets in Morne Jnr’s name include:
● Properties in Kragga Kamma, Kruisrivier and Glenmarais in Gauteng and their furniture;
● A Mercedes-Benz Vito; and ● Four business interests including in a security company, Club Shakes and the Red Lion Pub and Grub.
Asked why Morne Jnr was listed as a respondent, Ndwalaza said the AFU’s case was that he benefited from the enterprise specifically regarding the properties in his name.
“This is known as an affected gift in terms of [the Organised Crime Act].”
The case will be heard on December 7 when the AFU will argue whether Morne Jnr benefited from the enterprise.
If it is proven that he had benefited, the judge would make a confiscation order and determine the amount to be paid, Ndwalaza said.
“Once the judge makes the confiscation order they have 14 days to pay the money.
“If he does not, then we go back to the high court for a realisation application effectively authorising the appointed curator to execute the order, which means he will then sell the assets and deposit the money into the Criminal Assets Recovery account.”
In September, Morne Snr was found guilty on two charges of racketeering and one of contravening the Marine Living Resources Act. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
In that case, Marshelle, along with Jacob “Japie” Naumann, 35, Frederick “Frikkie” Nance, 24, Petrus “Pietie” Smith, 31, and Willie Nance, 56, pleaded guilty to charges including racketeering and contravening the marine act in August. They are still to be sentenced.
In a separate matter, Morne Snr along with his son, Jan “Danie” Prinsloo, 31, and Paul Bezuidenhout, 22, were convicted on a number of charges in October after they pleaded guilty to charges of racketeering and contravening the marine act.
Morne Snr further pleaded guilty to an additional charge of racketeering, contravening the act and theft in that case.
Morné Jnr initially pleaded not guilty to the charge of racketeering, but Port Elizabeth High Court judge Glenn Goosen convicted him on the charge after finding that he knew about his father’s perlemoen poaching enterprise and had actively participated in its dealings.
That case was postponed to December 14 for sentencing proceedings.
This was after defence counsel Alwyn Griebenow for the Blignaults and advocate Johan van der Spuy for the three others requested correctional services’, probation officers’ and primary care officers’ reports to be compiled in respect of Morne Jnr, Prinsloo and Bezuidenhout.
ON THE LIST
The Asset Forfeiture Unit is eager to get its hands on just about anything it can sell to recoup some of the R67m it suspects the Blignaults earned through dirty dealings.
Some of the smaller – and stranger – items include: An extension cord;
18 25kg bags of salt;
A stainless steel lid;
A silver Volkswagen key;
A canoe paddle;
Three black bins.