A New York court has ordered a Manhattan-based fishing company to pay South Africa $22.5 million in restitution for illegal poaching and harvesting of South African lobster over several years.
The court ordered Arnold Bengis, one-time managing director of Hout Bay Fishing Industries, his son David, and Jeffrey Noll, who was the chairman and president of Icebrand Seafoods and Associated Sea Fisheries in Manhattan, to pay the money to South Africa, according to a report in U.S. Fish & Information Services.
This is the largest restitution ever awarded under the Lacey Act, which makes it a crime to import fish, wildlife or plants into the U.S. taken in violation of another country’s laws, according to the report.
Among the charges, Hout Bay Fishing under-reported catches while doing business in South Africa, bribed fisheries inspectors and submitted false information. It also exploited South African workers who were employed without valid work permits at low wages in the company’s processing factory, the report said.
The three men were sentenced to prison time.
“This sets an important international precedent for over-harvesting of natural resources,” said Tina Joemat Pettersson, South African minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. “It demonstrates the lengths and commitment…to pursue, no matter how long it takes, those who poach South Africa’s natural resources, in this case since 2001, more than 12 years.”
Read more at U.S. Fish & Information Services.