THE alleged mastermind of what is believed to be one of the biggest smuggling syndicates in SA was among five people arrested in predawn raids at a farm in Port Elizabeth.
The suspects stood side by side in a prison court on Wednesday where the workings of an alleged perlemoen ring that reaped hundreds of millions of rand were spelt out.
According to court documents‚ which provided details on how the massive perlemoen operation worked‚ each suspect had a specific job to do in the enterprise.
Whether it was cooking‚ packaging‚ storing or transporting the endangered species‚ each suspect played a pivotal role in the multimillion-rand operation‚ police said.
Perlemoen‚ gas and salt were transported to the processing establishment at a Motherwell farm‚ after which the molluscs were cooked‚ dried and packed at a warehouse.
The dry product was then transported to a leased house in Bridgemead‚ Port Elizabeth.
The suspected syndicate head — former nightclub owner and businessman Morne Blignaut — appeared in the St Albans Prison court on Wednesday. Police said further arrests were imminent‚ including one on Thursday morning.
The prosecution said Blignault’s estranged wife‚ Marshelle‚ had already been cited on the charge sheet as an accused.