Cape Town – The Western Cape High Court has made an example of an abalone poacher by sentencing him to 244 years’ imprisonment.
Solomon Sauls, 45, entered into a plea and sentencing agreement with the State last Friday, where he admitted to having poached abalone and bribed officials from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
Late on Monday, National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila said Sauls faced 42 charges and was subsequently convicted for participating in an enterprise, 16 counts of corruption, two counts of money laundering, 12 counts of contravention of S44(2) of the Marine Living Resources Act and 10 counts of contravening the Marine Living Resources Act of Reg 36(1)(b).
Sauls sentences are to run concurrently, meaning he is effectively set to serve 18 years in prison.
Sauls, a father of five, is currently serving a seven-year sentence which was handed down to him in September 2020.
The sentence came as he was found to be responsible for the delivery and logistics of illegally sourced abalone for export.
Prior to this sentence, he was serving 14 years for his involvement in a syndicate that operated from 2001 until 2008 when its members were arrested.
Sauls also had corrupt dealings with nine officials from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
The officials were arrested and are facing corruption and abalone-poaching charges before the court.
Sauls bribed these officials and bought back the confiscated abalone that was taken from his team of poachers.
“He would also stop the officials from confiscating the abalone, telling them that the divers were his. Arrangements would be made for the return of the illegally harvested abalone and he would pay the officials tens of thousands of rands.
’’The officials would then divide the money among themselves,” Ntabazalila said.
Advocate Aradhana Heeramun said the NPA was pleased with the sentence, which will send a warning to would-be offenders.
“This type of offence is of a very serious nature as it involves corrupting government officials into not doing their official duties to protect natural resources. He paid Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries officials not to arrest and seize abalone of his diving teams.
’’His actions weakened law enforcement efforts to protect abalone, which is mostly for commercial purposes and exportation. His actions were driven by greed,” Heeramun said.
African News Agency (ANA)