Seized fishing boat sold for R450 000

Neil Oelofse

Officials of the Circuit Court in Knysna conduct an inspection of the Toledo fishing boat at the start of the trial of six men accused of using the vessel to smuggle 1.7 tons of cocaine into South Africa.

A fishing boat used by a Chinese syndicate to smuggle 1.7 tons of cocaine into Knysna harbour, and subsequently seized by the Asset Forfeiture Unit, was sold on auction for R450 000 at the weekend.

Six men were arrested and are standing trial in the Circuit Court in Knysna on charges of dealing in the 1 716kg of pure cocaine, which was found by police aboard the Toledo fishing boat moored outside an upmarket Knysna Waterfront flat on December 10, 2010.

The proceeds from the sale of the Toledo will be invested by a curator pending the finalisation of asset forfeiture proceedings instituted by the state. The proceedings are apparently being opposed by one of the accused and the registered owner, Shaun Packareysammy, 43, of Port Elizabeth.

Auctioneer Robin Mills on Sunday joked that he would have preferred to have sold off the cargo of cocaine – estimated to be worth about R2 billion on the streets – than the fishing boat.

Mills said the Toledo’s buyer got a bargain, but that it was also a good price for the seller. The winning bid was submitted by Knysna local Ricky Cooper on behalf of an undisclosed buyer believed to be a South African doctor practising in the US.

The court has heard that Packareysammy helped a group of Chinese “businessmen” buy the Toledo from a Hout Bay yacht broker for R700 000 in September 2010.

In his plea explanation, Packareysammy said he was invited by the Chinese men to be part of a legitimate scheme to buy a boat for deep sea fishing and sightseeing charters along South Africa’s coast and around Mauritius. He said he was asked to manage the business and also to occasionally arrange holidays for the Chinese businessmen and their families.

Packareysammy and his five co-accused have all pleaded not guilty. They are Chinese citizens Xing Cuo Chen, 57, Zhi Zhong Liu, 51, and Yu Wei Yau, 30, and Cape Town marine engineers Beverley Jones, 47, and Magamat Adams, 41.

The state alleges that the cocaine was loaded on to the Toledo from a passing ship when the fishing boat put out to sea from Knysna Harbour for five days from December 5, 2010.

On Friday SANParks field ranger, David Jornett, told the court that the cocaine smugglers were nearly tipped off that they were being watched when two policemen aboard a SANParks boat chased after the Toledo as it was leaving Knysna lagoon to load the cocaine, but turned back because the sea was too choppy.

Jornett said he was sent to investigate a diesel leak emanating from the Toledo on December 3 and became suspicious when he asked Jones and Yu what they and the other Chinese men were doing in Knysna.

“He (Jones) said they were on a fishing holiday and wanted to catch marlin. They appeared uncomfortable and it seemed they were not telling the truth.”

Jornett said the fishing tackle aboard the Toledo did not appear to be up to standard for deep sea game fishing. Also, “no one ever comes to fish for marlin in Knysna”.

After inspecting the boat Jornett alerted the police as to his suspicions, and two days later two police officers asked him to take them out to intercept the Toledo as it was leaving the Knysna lagoon.

“The Toledo was already on its way. I prepared our boat and went after the Toledo but we missed them.

“It was already through the Heads. The sea was choppy and the policemen didn’t want to go, so I turned around.” – Garden Route Media

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