Long jail terms for perlemoen poachers

Julian Brown after being sentenced in the Port Elizabeth High Court on 1 March 2019 to 18 years
Julian Brown after being sentenced in the Port Elizabeth High Court on 1 March 2019 to 18 years
Image: Devon Koen

Convicted racketeering and perlemoen poaching kingpin Julian Brown wept in the dock of the Port Elizabeth High Court on Friday when he was handed an effective 18-year prison sentence for running an illegal perlemoen poaching enterprise.

Brown, 32, along with Eugene Victor, 33, and Brandon Turner, 39, were convicted in February on charges of racketeering and contravening the Marine Living Resources Act (MLRA).

Victor was also convicted on a string of additional charges, including forgery and fraud.

Victor and Turner were each sentenced to an effective 15 years behind bars.

After the men were sentenced, Brown’s family and supporters wept openly.

Payments were filtered through [Brown] and he was in charge of the day-to-day running of the enterprise
Judge Mandela Makaula

Before sentencing proceedings got under way, Brown sat nervously in the dock, peering over his shoulder and looking at the public gallery.

In considering the sentences, Judge Mandela Makaula said, it was important to consider the roles each of the men played in the illegal operations which spanned across Nelson Mandela Bay.

“Even though [Victor and Turner] were convicted of [racketeering] their sentences should be less than [Brown’s],” he said.

Makaula found although there was no evidence Brown had gained financially from the illegal activities, he was pivotal in the running of the perlemoen poaching enterprise.

“Payments were filtered through [Brown] and he was in charge of the day-to-day running of the enterprise,” Makaula said.

Detailing some of the evidence before court, Makaula said although throughout the trial Brown maintained he was not involved in perlemoen poaching, a text message from a Chinese national found on Brown’s phone with details on how to prepare and cook perlemoen showed he was actively involved in the poaching ring.

“[Brown] distanced himself from this and claimed he received a number of WhatsApp and other messages from people unknown to him,” Makaula said.

Brown showed no remorse and claimed the only involvement he had with perlemoen poaching was that he hired out diving equipment and helped out some of the state witnesses, Makaula said.

Brown had labelled the witnesses, who had at some stage worked for him, as “useless, gamblers and drug addicts”.

Makaula said he was unable to hand down a sentence that was non-custodial and highlighted a number of other cases where convicted poachers had failed in applications to appeal.

According to Makaula, sentences for convicted poachers are inadequate and South African law had failed to keep up the pace with international trends.

Brown was sentenced to 18 years for contravening the Prevention of Organised Crime Act and three years for poaching.

Both sentences will run concurrently.

Turner received 15 years for racketeering and three for contravening the MLRA – both sentences will run concurrently – while Victor, who was convicted on a string of charges, received various sentences ranging from two to 15 years, to run concurrently.

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