Cops seize cars of ‘abalone king­pin’

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - FA­TIMA SCHROEDER

HE HAS been on the run for more than seven years and, al­though au­thor­i­ties may not know where he is, it hasn’t stopped them from at­tach­ing three cars, be­lieved to have been used in large-scale abalone-poach­ing ac­tiv­i­ties, which he al­legedly paid for.

How­ever, if Ran Wei is de­ter­mined to hold on to the cars, he has 72 hours to come for­ward to ap­ply for a re­con­sid­er­a­tion.

Wei is ac­cused of a string of poach­ing-re­lated charges, as well as rack­e­teer­ing and money laun­der­ing. He is be­lieved to have played a lead­ing role in an al­leged poach­ing syn­di­cate which op­er­ated for 13 years, mainly in the Western Cape.

This week, in pa­pers be­fore the Western Cape High Court in a preser­va­tion ap­pli­ca­tion lodged by the As­set For­fei­ture Unit (AFU), it emerged that the three ve­hi­cles, close to R600 000 in cash and other for­eign cur­rency were seized in North West in March 2006 – shortly be­fore Wei dis­ap­peared.

Ac­cord­ing to in­for­ma­tion con­tained in an af­fi­davit by deputy di­rec­tor of pub­lic prose­cu­tions Gcobani Bam, the syn­di­cate used the farm Walsh Acres in Stan­ford as an abalone-dry­ing and stor­age fa­cil­ity un­til March 2006, when po­lice found 64 000 abalone. They moved op­er­a­tions to two farms in North West.

Fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tions led the po­lice to the farms, where two of the ve­hi­cles – a Toy­ota Hilux and a Peu­geot Boxer panel van – were seized.

The third ve­hi­cle – a Mazda 4x4 – was handed to the po­lice by the reg­is­tered owner af­ter the searches.

Bam said there was ev­i­dence that Wei had paid for the ve­hi­cles, al­though none was reg­is­tered in his name.

At a later raid at Wei’s res­i­dence, po­lice con­fis­cated the cash and for­eign cur­rency.

“I sub­mit that there are rea­son­able grounds to be­lieve that the cash that forms part of the prop­erty was de­rived from un­law­ful abalone har­vest­ing, pro­cess­ing and sell­ing trans­ac­tions that con­sti­tute pro­ceeds of un­law­ful ac­tiv­i­ties as de­fined in the Preven­tion of Or­gan­ised Crime Act,” Bam said.

Judge An­dré le Grange granted the preser­va­tion or­der on Thurs­day.

He is be­lieved to have played a lead­ing role in an al­leged poach­ing syn­di­cate

ON THE RUN: Ran Wei

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