DAFF uses diplomatic channels to return funds held abroad

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) Minister Senzeni Zokwana says the department will be triggering its diplomatic channels and legal remedies to have the funds held in the trusts abroad returned to South Africa.

This follows a court order instructing convicted international fishing kingpin, Arnold Bengis, to pay an amount of $67 million to South Africa, as the victim of his crimes in overfishing.

A legal delegation led by the department’s Acting Director General, Mooketsa Ramasodi and the Deputy Director General: Fisheries Management Siphokazi Ndudane, and attorneys from B Xulu and Partners Incorporated attended to stay a Saisie Judiciaire freezing order on assets in amount of $22 million held trusts associated with Bengis.

The trusts are held by a complex system of commercial structures and the delegation’s inter-governmental co-operation assisted in equipping the Jersey Attorney General in the unravelling of the evasive trust configurations.

Minister Zokwana noted that the monies held by the trusts in Jersey indicate how organised fisheries crime deprives the people of South Africa of economic benefits, which could be used for the promotion of domestic coastal initiatives and compliance measures.

The continued efforts made by the South African government were supported by the judgment out of the Royal Court of Jersey, which on 23 March 2018 dismissed the application to have the freezing order set aside.

Minister Zokwana said that the department will further be pursuing the balance of funds in fulfilment of the total sum of $67 million due to the country.

“I’m pleased with the progress made thus far and appreciative of the co-operation of the Jersey and United States Government in setting the stage that over-harvesting of South African marine resources will not be tolerated,” the Minister said.

Willjarro application for leave to appeal dismissed

 

Meanwhile, Western Cape High Judge Elizabeth Baartman has dismissed an application for leave to appeal filed by Willjarro (Pty) Ltd company, following a ruling on a tender contract of abalone which was unlawfully awarded to the company.

The department has been involved in lengthy litigation proceedings where it sought to withdraw an unlawfully awarded tender for 90 tons of abalone awarded to a Willjarro (Pty) Ltd.

On 24 November 2017, the Western Cape High Court decided on the main application and ruled in the department’s favour, ordering that the contract between the department and Willjarro was unlawful and should accordingly be set aside.

Willjarro was also ordered to pay the legal costs.

Subsequent to the finalisation of legal proceedings, Willjarro filed an application for leave to appeal. However, on Monday, Judge Baartman dismissed the application and ordered the company to pay the legal cost of two counsel.

“This matter has been highly publicised by the media, with representatives related to Willjarro making false accusations against some members of our department, however, the order herein once more vindicates the department against any wrongdoing in respect to the process followed in withdrawing Willjarro’s abalone tender,” Minister Zokwana said.

The Minister warned that the department remains committed to, and will deal decisively with any and all allegations of corrupt activities.

“The department will take equal measures, both internally and externally in rooting out those who perpetrate acts of corruption,” he said. – SAnews.gov.za

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