The government has welcomed a New York court's decision that South Africa be paid US22.5 million (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 (June 14), the United States Court ordered that Arnold Bengis, Jeffrey Noll and David Bengis pay restitution of nearly US22.5m 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 Pty Ltd, his son David, and Noll, who was the chairman 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. More....