Return to sender: Perlemoen worth R27m
Johannesburg - Agriculture officials received a perlemoen consignment worth about R27m in Cape Town on Tuesday, three weeks after it was seized in Hong Kong.
Agricultural spokesperson Lionel Adendorf said the illegally-harvested perlemoen had been shipped from South Africa to Hong Kong, but was confiscated by that country's custom officials on March 10.
"This was the first consignment to return to South Africa after it has docked," he said.
He said the perlemoen (also known as abalone) weighed more than 2 627kg. It docked in the Cape Town harbour at the weekend.
Last November, Hong Kong customs officers seized a record haul of 33 rhino horns along with ivory chopsticks and bracelets hidden inside a container shipped from Cape Town.
Officers found the horns along with 758 ivory chopsticks and 127 ivory bracelets in a haul worth a total of about R18m during a search of a container declared as containing "scrap plastic".
Details of the perlemoen seizure in Hong Kong were not immediately clear. However, Adendorf said it had been agreed by both countries that the perlemoen be returned to South Africa.
"The department took possession of the perlemoen... It's being kept in our storeroom," he said.
Adendorf said a man had been arrested in Hong Kong and fined about R340 000.
No arrests had been made in South Africa, but the matter would be investigated further.
More than 500 000 units of perlemoen destined for the East have been confiscated since 2007.
Adendorf said the department, working with the police, the national prosecuting authority and the SA Revenue Services, had had three other consignments turned back to South Africa while en route to the East.