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The stench of rotting chemicals, sodium powder and raw salt greets you as you step into 6 Bailers Way, Sunset Beach.
Chest freezers, plastic basins, crates, drums, bathtubs and bins filled to the brim with abalone – some of it frozen, some dry, and bits and pieces of abalone stashed in bags are in a corner.
Police raided the South Beach house on Thursday, finding almost five tons of abalone with an estimated value of R12 million. The Cape Times visited the house.
“This is probably the biggest bust for Milnerton police,” said Captain Cyril Dicks.
This bust is one of five that Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries officers have pulled off in conjunction with police in a week.
A total of seven men have been arrested and 3.2 tons confiscated, excluding the Milnerton bust.
Seven gas tanks, two drums of sodium, over 600kg of non-iodated salt, a huge pot and 28 bags of abalone were found at the South Beach house. According to police at the scene, the house seemed like a “mini abalone factory”.
A 36-year-old Chinese national, who was found armed with a knife when heavily armed police swooped on the house, was asked to put his weapon down and is in custody. Another suspect, who police believe is from Senegal, is still at large.
“We arrested a Chinese national who is due to appear in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court soon,” said Warrant Officer November Filander in a statement.
Inside the house, one of the bedrooms has ceiling-high metal-mesh shelves on each side of the room, which police believe was used as the drying room. All rooms have dark curtains that are tightly fitted and the drainage pipes are customised, sealed with plastic and tape, and built to deposit directly into the drainage system and not through the drainage catchment.
Some of the neighbours were shocked and said they did not believe something like this was going on in the house.
“It’s really surprising that a thing like this happened here,” said Samantha Uys.
“This is a really safe area and no one would ever suspect that something like this was going on here. I take a walk past this house almost every day and it’s always quiet. No one would have suspected.”
Another neighbour, who asked not to be named, said the people had moved in two or three months ago, but they usually came in after midnight.