US court orders SA poacher to hand over R479m

2017-07-21 22:34


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Johannesburg – A US court has ordered convicted lobster poacher Arnold Bengis to forfeit $37m (R479m) to South Africa’s agriculture and fisheries department.

In addition, the 81-year-old was sentenced to four years and nine months in jail, the department's acting chief director for monitoring, Thembalethu Vico, said in a statement on Friday.

The US would release an additional $3m (R38m) in restitution payments to the department, which Bengis and his son David had committed to pay, but never did.

New York Southern District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan handed down the order on Wednesday. Between 1987 and 2000, Bengis was responsible for poaching West Coast Rock Lobster and illegally importing it into the US, resulting in a decline in rock lobster numbers.

Vico said the department had asked for a forfeiture order of approximately $100m (R1.29bn), but was awarded $37m.

Bengis has dual South African and US citizenship and is currently living in Israel.

In 2002, a South African court convicted Bengis’s company, Hout Bay Fishing, of violating the Marine Living Resources Act.

In 2004, US district court convicted Bengis and his son of illegally importing rock lobster into that country. He was jailed for four years and was ordered to pay South Africa over $22 million in restitution. Wednesday’s order meant he would have to spend another nine months in jail.

“In the decade since that order, Bengis has refused to pay, instead shielding his assets in foreign trusts. Judge Kaplan’s order on 19 July served as punishment for Bengis’s failure to comply with his earlier restitution obligations,” the department said.

Vico said illegal fishing was a general problem, but Bengis's case was unique because the crimes had lasted for about 14 years and involved two countries.

The US court had deferred judgement on additional restitution.

Read more on:    us  |  cape town  |  israel  |  marine life  |  poaching

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