In a successful investigative breakthrough SARS Customs Officials this morning seized 1 684 (one thousand six hundred and eighty four) kilograms of frozen abalone at the Lebombo border post. The illegal consignment, destined for Mozambique, was the biggest seizure of abalone to date by SARS Customs at the border post and has an estimated street value of more than R1.5 million.
The Customs Anti-smuggling team conducted routine inspections at the Nkomazi commercial clearing facility when a closed container truck arrived for examination. The driver declared 35 bags of washing powder after which SARS inspectors noticed irregularities with the container's size.
Further inspections revealed a false compartment that was concealed with wooden palates, covered with silicone and bolted to the inside of the container. SARS Customs officials opened the hidden compartment and discovered the bags of frozen abalone. A total of 65 bags were confiscated in the presence of the driver. Members of the South African Police Service's (SAPS) dog unit were also notified.
The confiscated abalone and the driver of vehicle were handed over to the SAPS.
This was the fourth abalone seizure the last two years at the Lebombo border post and by far the biggest. In their daily task of monitoring the movement of trade and human traffic between South Africa and Mozambique, SARS Customs officials often uncover hidden compartments in large vehicles designed to illegally transport commercial products, promotional items and at times, even illegal immigrants.
Previous maritime seizures at the Lebombo border post include dried abalone and prawns. The matter has been referred to the SAPS for further investigation. The driver remains in police custody and is expected to appear in court soon.
Likely charges include contravening the Marine Coastal Maritime Act and regulations of the Cites Convention.
ISSUED BY THE COMMISSIONER FOR THE SOUTH AFRICAN REVENUE SERVICE