Julian Brown, left, Eugene Victor, centre and Brandon Turner were found guilty of racketeering and contravening the Marine Living Resource Act. Picture: Raahil Sain/African News Agency(ANA)

Port Elizabeth - Kingpin of a lucrative abalone enterprise, Julian Brown, was found guilty in the Port Elizabeth High Court on Tuesday of racketeering and  contravening the Marine Living Resource Act.

Brown, 32, a high school drop out, faced a string of charges between January 2015 and April 2016. He was acquitted on a charges of defeating the ends of justice and money laundering linked to the purchase of a luxury Ferrari vehicle. 

Brown headed the enterprise alongside Eugene "Boesman" Victor and Brandon Turner. The business involved drying, salting, packing, freezing and processing abalone for sale outside South Africa. 

The operations took place across Nelson Mandela Bay involving a number of role players. The business was operated from Forest Hill, Algoa Park, Westering, Sherwood, Kamma Ridge and North End. 

Employees in the abalone trade work on a “need-to-know” basis so a diver will not be aware of the details of storage or transportation. 

Victor was convicted on charges that included racketeering, contravening the Marine Living Resource Act, displaying a false licence, forgery, driving without a licence and possession of abalone. 

Turner was convicted on a charge of racketeering and contravening the Marine Living Resource Act. 

During the trial a string of associates who had been involved in poaching abalone, turned on Brown and testified as Section 204 witnesses. 

Judge Mandela Makaula on Tuesday detailed a 144-page judgment that took six hours to deliver. 

Makaula said it was clear that the Section 204 witnesses had worked as a group and they were remunerated for poaching abalone. 

Makaula said it was the evidence of Renier Ellerbeck which led to the “cartel breakthrough”.

The court found that after Ellerbeck spilt the beans, abalone poaching and the operation in the city, in general, were exposed.

The court found Ellerbeck to have testified honestly about his several brush-ins with the law and his involvement in the abalone poaching business. 

Makaula also found that there was no evidence that the witnesses colluded to implicate Brown. He found that Brown had intricate relationships with other known abalone kingpins. 

The court dismissed Brown’s claim that his name was being used to substitute an alleged abalone kingpin known as ‘Diffie’.

“There is no motive as to why these witnesses would substitute Diffie for accused 1 [Brown] as the kingpin...it is mind boggling that those he helped would implicate him for no reason,” Makaula said. 

The court found that Brown and Victor’s involvement in managing the enterprise cut across in the evidence of the Section 204 witnesses and cell phone records. 

The court found that the evidence clearly demonstrated a violation of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act and there was association of an enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activities. 

Brown and Turner asked that their bail be extended but Makaula denied their release because of the serious nature of the charges. 

Sentencing proceedings will get underway on Wednesday. 

African News Agency (ANA)