Cops seize cars of ‘abalone kingpin’
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