Cape Times - Frank Barends, who is accused of being the mastermind behind a R2.07 billion national perlemoen poaching syndicate, will stay in custody for the remainder of his trial, which could take as long as five years.

Judge Vincent Saldanha rejected Barends’s bail application in the Western Cape High Court on Thursday, saying he had already “squandered” previous opportunities.

“The State has noted that he played a management role in the enterprise.

“While the State can’t ensure incarceration would restrain him from acting as such, it would create a less conducive environment.

“The State has argued that he showed a blatant disregard for the justice system in his conduct after he was released on bail for the Hermanus matter on similar charges,” he said.

Barends, a fisherman from Gansbaai, and 25 co-accused collectively face 590 charges including illegal possession of abalone, racketeering and corruption in Gansbaai.

Among the accused are Barends’s wife Josephine and his bookkeeper, Sarah Dunsdon.

They are due back in court for a pre-trial hearing on July 26.

Barends is charged with controlling a syndicate in the Western Cape and being the main buyer of poached perlemoen from divers.

He has been incarcerated for 17 months.

His lawyer Peter

Mihalik said by the time the case was concluded, Barends would have been an awaiting-trial prisoner for seven years.

Judge Saldanha said Barends used the widespread poverty in the Gansbaai community as an excuse to justify running the illegal syndicate and defend his offences.

“The applicant (Barends) has acted perversely and used the poverty of the small fishing community as an excuse for the dealings of the illegal abalone transactions.

“It could never be the justification for the (threat to the) sustainability of protected marine life and environment,” Judge Saldanha said.

In his affidavit, Barends said he was not a flight risk as he had close ties to his family in the Western Cape.

He said he also previously handed in his passport, had no contact with witnesses and the community supported his release.

A Chinese citizen, Ran Wei, who allegedly ran and funded the syndicate, is yet to be arrested.

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Cape Times