A South African court sentenced a man to two years in prison on Friday after he pleaded guilty to helping transport 3,243 abalone as part of an international criminal ring that poached tons of the gourmet mollusk.
Rampant poaching has decimated the abalone population in South Africa's coastal waters to feed demand for the high-priced delicacy in Asia, where the mollusks have also been over harvested, forcing buyers to look elsewhere.
Accused Peter Jansen appeared with more than 20 other suspects facing some 530 charges, including illegal possession of abalone, racketeering and corruption in what officials said was the biggest abalone criminal bust in the country's history.
The alleged mastermind, Chinese national Ran Wei, has fled South Africa after police caught members of the syndicate last year and he is being charged in absentia.
In Jansen's plea bargain, he admitted to hiring the car that transported 3,243 shucked abalone -- also known locally as "perlemoen" -- with an estimated value of 300,000 rand ($30,200)to South Africa's commercial hub Johannesburg.
"The seized abalone was clearly not for own consumption but for commercial purposes of exporting and selling," his guilty plea statement said. More....