The Herald E-Edition

Perlemoen kingpin’s desperate plea for cash

Jailed Morne Blignault wants court to release some frozen assets to help struggling family

Lynn Spence

The once high-flying perlemoen kingpin who went from the lap of luxury to a prison cell has turned to Gqeberha’s high court, cap in hand and shackles on his feet, to ask for money from his frozen assets.

Morne Blignault said he needed some of these funds to be released so that he could support his wife and child.

Sitting side-by-side in the courtroom gallery last week were Blignault s ex-wife, Marshelle, and’ new wife, Lachelle.

Matters became a bit confusing when the judge addressed “Mrs Blignault” only for both women to respond at the same time.

When Blignault’s perlemoen empire — from which he had reaped hundreds of millions of rand — came crashing down three years ago, a judge slapped him with a 20-year prison sentence, which he is serving at the St Albans Correctional Centre.

But matters became worse for his family when his assets, many of which were bought with illicit funds, were frozen by the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU).

Blignault had pleaded guilty to two charges of racketeering and one count of contravening the Marine Living Resources Act.

The overwhelming evidence stacked against him showed how he had headed up one of the most lucrative perlemoen syndicates in the Eastern Cape and possibly the country.

His empire included nightclubs, flashy vehicles, businesses and properties across the country.

He eventually sold his Audi and luxury Kawasaki H2 motorbike to raise about R700,000 in bail money for himself and his co-accused.

Soon after Blignault ’ s sentence, the AFU successfully obtained a restraint order against his remaining assets.

Malcolm Campbell of Price Waterhouse Cooper was appointed the curator.

These assets included: ● A property in Kragga Kamma;

● A property in Kruisrivier, Kariega;

● A property in Glenmarais, Gauteng;

● White Mercedes Vito; ● Shares in the White Lion Pub and Grub sports bar;

● Shares in Certus Security Services;

● Club Shakes;

● Flat screen TVs;

● Perlemoen processing equipment;

● Gemstones, rubies, diamonds;

● Jewellery and electronics; and

● A Mandela Coin.

And with his assets frozen and his empire collapsed, Blignault’s wife, Lachelle, said she had fallen on hard times and could no longer meet the living expenses for herself and their child.

The couple married in community of property on December 2 2016.

Their child was born on June 4 2018, when Blignault was already in prison.

Last week, more than a year after he was sentenced, Blignault brought a civil application in terms of Section 26 (6) of the POCA Act, asking for

some of the funds to be released so that Lachelle’s living expenses could be covered.

He also called for an inquiry into the confiscation of his assets.

Wearing his orange prison attire, he was escorted into the high court dock on Thursday in the hope of convincing judge Glenn Goosen to grant his request.

Key to his two court applications is Blignault’s ex-wife, Marshelle, who benefited to the tune of R60m from her then-husband’s criminal empire.

Dubbed the “poaching queen”, Marshelle was sentenced to 12 years in prison after six tonnes of perlemoen worth more than R5m were seized at the time of her arrest.

She has since been released on special presidential parole.

In support of his claim for Lachelle’s living expenses and maintenance, Blignault makes mention of a property in North End that he owned with Marshelle during their

marriage. He said after their divorce in 2008, he became the sole owner of her quarter share of the property.

According to Blignault, there are four houses on the property that are being rented out.

Despite the property forming part of the frozen assets, and it being illegal to do so, Lachelle now allegedly collects the rental to survive financially.

“The property was acquired six years before the offences which I committed from July 2013 to August 2014.

“It was not obtained with the proceeds of crime,” Blignault said in court papers.

“I had at that stage had various businesses which I conducted lawfully, including a nightclub called Club Shakes [in North End].”

Club Shakes did well, so Blignault bought the body shop next door.

When business at the club died down, he had decided to become involved in the illegal perlemoen trade.

He said there were sufficient assets in the estate to pay towards his child’s maintenance.

Blignault is of the view that even though Marshelle was found guilty, his second wife knew nothing about his illegal perlemoen business.

When the matter was heard on Thursday, the AFU indicated that they would oppose the applications.

In their heads of argument, the AFU said Blignault and Lachelle’s application for living expenses stood to be dismissed with costs in that they had not met the stringent requirements for living expenses in terms of section 26 (6) of the POCA Act.

The AFU said allowing them to access the funds would mean giving them the right to enjoy the fruits of criminal activities.

“In this way, the honourable court would be condoning a form of money laundering.”

The case could not be heard last week because the Blignaults did not have an attorney on record to represent them.

Goosen advised that they find legal representation before the matter can be argued.

The matter was postponed for this purpose to March 17.

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