Perly kingpin Morne Blignault's ex-wife jailed for 12 years

No lenient sentences for poaching – judge

Marshelle Blignault, 42, will go to jail for 12 years for her part in the poaching enterprise
Marshelle Blignault, 42, will go to jail for 12 years for her part in the poaching enterprise
Image: Devon Koen

Bitter tears flowed in the Port Elizabeth High Court on Friday when the former wife of convicted racketeering and perlemoen-poaching kingpin Morne Blignault received a hefty 12-year prison sentence for her role in the illegal enterprise created by her and her ex-husband.

Marshelle Blignault, 42, along with four others, pleaded guilty in August 2018 to a number of charges, among them racketeering and contravening the Marine Living Resources Act.

Blignault’s co-accused – Jacob “Japie” Naumann, 34, Frederick “Frikkie” Nance, 24, Petrus “Pietie” Smith, 31 and Willie Nance, 56, who all pleaded guilty and were convicted on various charges – received sentences ranging from five to 12 years, while Nance Snr received an option of a R20,000 fine or 18 months in prison.

Nance Snr was convicted on two charges of contravening the act after he was caught assisting his son, Frederick, with transporting processed perlemoen from a farm outside Port Elizabeth where the Blignaults’ enterprise conducted its illegal operations. Passing down sentence on Friday, judge Mandela Makaula said he had taken into consideration the role each of the accused had played in the enterprise.

“The sentences imposed should reflect this,” Makaula said.

Blignault’s former husband Morne, 47 , initially pleaded not guilty to the various charges he faced but after his co-accused entered guilty pleas he did an about-turn and pleaded guilty.

His trial was then separated from the others.

He was convicted on charges of racketeering and contravening the act and received a 20-year sentence.

During the trial an intricate web of underhanded illegal activities were laid bare, showing how the Blignaults managed and ran the illegal poaching enterprise, which saw hundreds of tons of perlemoen worth millions of rands poached from along the Nelson Mandela Bay coastline.

The poached perlemoen was processed, handled, cooked, packaged and transported from the Oliphantskop farm near Addo, which was procured by Naumann.

Surveillance cameras were installed at and near the farm after police were informed of the suspected illegal operations by the farm’s owner.

On Friday, Makaula said it was evident that the seriousness of the offences and the possibility of a lengthy jail term did not deter the Blignaults and their co-accused from continuing their illegal activities.

“[Perlemoen] poaching continues unabated. The time has arrived for the reassessment of sentencing options,” Makaula said.

In considering each of the accused’s personal circumstances and probation officers’ reports submitted to court, Makaula said “the stage had been reached” for more severe sentences to be imposed.

Makaula found that Marshelle Blignault had “benefited immensely” from her part in the illegal enterprise and her sentence should reflect such.

Blignault received a 12-year prison sentence for racketeering while Naumann received two 12-year sentences for racketeering as well as one fouryear sentence and two threeyear sentences for contravening the act. All his sentences will run concurrently.

Nance Jnr and Smit received various sentences for racketeering and contravening the act, ranging from three to five years each.

All their sentences will run concurrently with the five-year sentence.

Nance Snr was given the option of a R20,000 fine or 18 months in prison. Advocate Johan van der Spuy for Nance Snr requested that his client be given until April 3 to pay the fine, which Makaula allowed.