Pretoria – The police have arrested the alleged masterminds behind one of the biggest suspected abalone-smuggling syndicates in South Africa.
At least 10 suspects were arrested during an early morning raid in Port Elizabeth and the surrounding areas on Tuesday morning.
The arrests came after an extended investigation targeting an international abalone syndicate.
“The joint operation was executed by SAPS specialised forces and swooped on seven addresses simultaneously. The suspected abalone-smuggling syndicate, which has links in China, has been a subject of intense investigations,” said the Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi.
He said it is alleged that the syndicate made approximately R500 million operating mainly in the Eastern Cape and other parts of the country.
During the raid, members confiscated various items which are currently subject to further investigations.
All the suspects, who are aged between 19 and 57, are expected to make their first appearance at the Port Elizabeth Magistrate Court on charges of racketeering and abalone smuggling.
Hawks National Head Lieutenant General Mthandazo Ntlemeza has lauded the investigation team who, under trying circumstances, managed to arrest the suspects.
He said the arrests will “definitely break the backbone of abalone poaching in the country”.
The Hawks said more arrests are imminent as the investigation unfolds.