Govt welcomes US restitution decision

2013-06-18 16:55

Cape Town - The government has welcomed a New York court's decision that South Africa be paid about R225.4m by three men convicted of importing illegally-harvested rock lobster into the US.

"This is the largest restitution amount ever awarded under the Lacey Act," the agriculture, forestry and fisheries ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

The Lacey Act is a US law, which makes it a crime to import into the US fish, wildlife or plants taken in violation of another country's laws.

"On Friday [14 June], the United States Court ordered that Arnold Bengis, Jeffrey Noll and David Bengis, pay restitution of nearly US22.5m [R225.4m] to South Africa following extensive, unlawful harvesting of south and west coast rock lobster in South African waters," the ministry said.

Between 1987 and 2001, Arnold Bengis, then managing director of Hout Bay Fishing Industries, his son David, and Noll, who was the chairperson and president of Icebrand Seafoods and Associated Sea Fisheries in Manhattan, engaged in a scheme to illegally harvest large quantities of rock lobster and export them to the US.

According to reports, all three men were South African citizens, but also held US citizenship.

The ministry said that in South Africa, the three under-reported catches, bribed fisheries' inspectors and submitted false information to the department.

"They also exploited South African workers... from the Hout Bay Fishing Industries' factory to work for low wages in their American processing factory," it said.

In May 2001, marine and coastal management (MCM), now the department of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, had advised their counterparts in New York that a container of illegally-harvested fish had been shipped from Hout Bay Fishing to New York.

"This was intercepted by the American authorities, who then commenced their own investigation with extensive co-operation from MCM officials and the Scorpions."

Sentenced and fined

After being charged in the US, the three were sentenced to various terms of imprisonment and were fined about R133m.

This followed an investigation by the Scorpions, and the successful prosecution of Hout Bay Fishing in South Africa, in April 2002, for illegal fishing.

Hout Bay Fishing paid a fine of R12m, and two of its fishing vessels were forfeited to the state for over-harvesting south and west coast rock lobster between 1987 and 2001.

The ministry welcomed last week's court ruling.

"This sets an important international precedent for over-harvesting of natural resources. It demonstrates the lengths and commitment of [the department] to pursue, no matter how long it takes, those who poach South Africa's natural resources, in this case since 2001, more than 12 years."

The department's fisheries branch Acting Director General Desmond Stevens hoped the money would be paid into the Marine Living Resources Fund.

"[Where it can] be used to fight syndicates that are plundering our natural resources," he said.

  • Hamish Leslie Drake - 2013-06-18 17:05

    Of course the money would go to anti poaching bodies. Ohh wait this SA...

      Templeton Mk - 2013-06-18 17:22

      Lets hope it does ?

      Andrew Selous - 2013-06-18 17:38

      give it a year and revisit the hope question.ohh wait..thin air

      Abanya Way - 2013-06-18 17:40

      Yeah Hamish. Now who is the minister of agriculture and fisheries? Joemat-Pettersen. What are the chances? Or am I being racist hey Templeton?

      thozi - 2013-06-18 19:25

      So Templeton has doubts as well? Then why did he call Kim Gaul a "Racist Pig"? Let's hope he had a rethink...

  • Mahlatse Patience - 2013-06-18 17:09

    If zuma heard diz m sure he is smiling insyd his dim speckz,u'l build a complex nw or a big inkadla(wteva de name) mall nw,applaud 2 zuma

      Mike Lamb - 2013-06-18 17:48

      Your dream in life is to be married to an American Rapper isn't it?

      Sh Oosh - 2013-06-18 18:14

      I think its my age, I don't get much of your code. I did get the "applaud 2 Zuma" bit. He must love people like you. Anyway I bet he must be having fancy dinner tonight. Think of all the wonderful things you can do with that kind of money.

  • Brenton Geyer - 2013-06-18 17:14

    Where is that money going to and on what is it gonna b spent on ? This greedy government of ours can't be trusted, they steel from the poor, old, sickly and disabled. And every time they wanna through Apart forward as an excuse, I bet millions if not billions hve been invested in our country but because of our thieving leaders , a lot of those millions were squandered on cars, houses and holidays. But that's just my opinion !!!!!!!!

      Sh Oosh - 2013-06-18 17:48

      And you Brenton are quite correct. The UK is cutting off its funding, next year is the last year that we will receive R19m. Know why? They would rather have SA as trading partners than the poor cousins because Nkandla cost R17m+ to build. Front page of Mail and Guardian, no jokes. So yes not only are your taxes mismanaged. In addition to this good news is that foreign investment is shrinking due to strikes and instability. Exciting times.

  • Shirley Stee - 2013-06-18 17:15

    Im sure they welcome the decision-only I doubt its for the right reasons! That money will dissapear faster tnan it was sanctioned! Any conciencious country would use that money to prevent further poaching,exploitation and ensure the safety of our animals! Unfortunately this is Souh Africa!

  • Dan Ancketill - 2013-06-18 17:22

    That's all fair and well but what about the poaching of perlemoen/abalone that is happening right under everyones noses? Nothing is being done about it? Where are the vessels to patrol the coast against poaching? The tax paying public are being cheated out of recreational diving for abalone (not allowed to take out any??) And a measly 4 crayfish in a shortened season. WTF is the Dept of Environmaental, Fisheries etc doing?

  • FinalJustice - 2013-06-18 17:32

    This heading sounds so cANCerous, like the government would rather say 'No thank you, rather donate the returns to World Wildlife Fund'. Instead it sounds like 'When can we expect payment?' and so on, and so forth ...

  • Jacqui Daane Van Rensburg - 2013-06-18 17:35

    I hope they never set food on South African soil again. We don't want that kind of trash here.

  • Derek Bekker - 2013-06-18 17:40

    About 10% will be spend on something worth while....the rest will be spend on admin costs and newly appointed fund directors bonuses.

  • Dirk Hattingh - 2013-06-18 17:50

    more upgrades for zuma!

  • Alexander Coetzee - 2013-06-18 17:51

    Are these men white or black? Corruption knows no boundries. Wish this business could have been closed down for good without causing harm to workers.

  • Uzziphathele KaSkhokho Tshabalala - 2013-06-18 17:58

    The money is going to Nkandlaville!!!,this anc-zuma is corrupt,they can't stop stealing because the leader is corrupt,anc don't care about South Africans of what we need,we say,we want,we ask,anc deserve to be removed from power!!!anc is destroying life that is already destroyed,this is bad for the future,specially poor South Africans...

  • JaxG - 2013-06-18 18:08

    How much did Nkandla cost...oops....sorry, still costing? Maybe this will offset that expense. No wonder the Govt "welcomes" restitution decision. Question is this. Will the people be able to pay?

  • Sean Mc Cullagh - 2013-06-18 18:47

    Now for the Rhino syndicates. but oops the Scorpions are now dust blown away into the veld. Or am I just being a little too pessimistic?

  • Jackey Moss - 2013-06-18 18:58

    Phase 2 in Nkadla will be underway soon,new maternity ward, pre school, etc etc....

  • Keenan Molver - 2013-06-18 19:33

    Hmmm...This should pay for Zuma's next few wives. Can already see construction for more rooms going on at his mansion

  • Alan Simigianis - 2013-06-19 06:37

    It will go straight to Zoomaville !

  • EyesEars HandsFeet - 2013-06-19 09:00

    1987 - 2001 Really US? 12 Years to figure this out to convict? Who were the other role-players? 7 years in the old regime and 7 in the new government. How many backhanders went underneath the table but only 3 people and two companies are being named? 2 & 2 does not equal 4 for me. In all honesty the bribed fisheries inspectors names should also be mentioned + all other officials involved. The fine should be used as compensation for the workers both abroad and national for the stress and pressure that they had to work under to keep their mouths shut for so long, NOT go to ANY departments or well fare organisations of ANY sort! This can be in a form of an education trust fund for the workers' children who wishes to study further, with emphasis on the subjects of ethics and honesty in the workplace and at home, so that the children will not make the same mistakes as their fathers before them. Damn the WORLD GOVERNMENTS are pathetic.

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