Cape Town - 120327 - 2.6 tons valued at R7.5 million of abalone was confiscated by SARS Customs officials in a joint effort with Hong Kong officials and unloaded at the storage in Paardeneiland. The abalone was not intercepted on its way to Hong Kong last year, but has been returned through a negotiation with Hong Kong officials. The product is valued at R27 million in Asian markets, where the abalone is predominantly demanded. An effort has been made to combat abalone poaching by teaming up the Department of Agriculture, Fishing and Forestry, the NPA, SARS, the Asset Forfeiture Unit, and Hawks. No local arrests have been made but some have been made in Hong Kong and South Africa is negotiating for the perpetrators to be tried in South Africa. The abalone will go through processes determined by the Dep of Agriculture and will be auctioned. PICTURE: THOMAS HOLDER

Cape Town - An warrant of arrest will be issued for a perlemoen syndicate accused who failed to appear in the Western Cape High Court on Friday.

Yu-Chen Chao was to have appeared before Judge Robert Henney for a pre-trial conference.

Prosecutor Helene Booysen said the investigating officer had tried contacting him telephonically, but there was no answer.

Henney said he would issue a warrant of arrest later in the day. Yu-Chen's bail of R100,000 was also provisionally forfeited to the State.

He and 18 others are accused of perlemoen smuggling and face charges including racketeering and fraud.

One of the accused, 50-year-old Yen-Chang Ku, a Chinese national, is sought by Interpol. The matter resumes on March 22.