South African natives have been immensely proud of their abundant natural resources, but they haven’t reaped out any benefit out of it, as a few capitalists have been exploiting these resources for many years. A peculiar case of the West Coast Rock Lobsters poaching is the best exemplification of it, as it is touted as one of the biggest corruptions in the fishing industry till date. A certain Cape Town white businessman, ‘Arnold Bengis’ had drained the South Africa’s seas by poaching the rare West Coast Rock Lobsters in thousands of tons and had illegally exported it into the US within a span of almost 14 years (1987-2000). West Coast Rock Lobsters have been considered as the most treasured marine species in the world specific to South Africa.
14 years of open loot of natural resources resulting in irreparable damage
This illegal practice wasn’t just meant to damage the coastal ecosystem but also one of the biggest corruptions in nature by a white businessman in South Africa. This scandal amounted to R5 billion ($500 million) plus interest through this illegal export of lobsters in the course of 1987 – 2000‚ according to an Ocean and Land Resources Assessment Consultant’s report.
This scandal resulted in sudden decline in the numbers of lobsters which raised many eyebrows in the world ecological community. This damage was so big that a big fishing community in the Western Cape of South Africa is still deprived of the access to the marine resources till today.
Suspicion over the decrease in lobster population led to investigation
Initial studies performed by the geographical scientists had claimed that some sort of ecological imbalance had taken a toll on the species resulting in the decline of the numbers of lobsters, but the detailed study led to the real reason i.e. illegal trading of lobsters.
In May 2001, South Africa’s Department of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries (DAFF) identified a container of illegally harvested fish which had been shipped from the South African coast to New York. Following a trailing pattern with the support of the South Africa’s Directorate of Special Operations (also, DSO or Scorpions), they identified that the similar thing had been in practice for the last 14 years by Arnold Bengis and his partners.
At this point, the entire scandal came out in the open. An investigation into it followed by filing of a proper court case against Arnold along with his partners being implicated in 2004 with a restitution amount of R270 million ($23 million) to pay along with the jail imprisonment of 2 years. Bengis agreed upon the condition. However, he could cough up only R16 million ($1.7 million) at that time.
After all these years, when he failed to pay the remaining amount, Manhattan District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan again sentenced him recently in 2017 with R483 million rands ($37 billion) in place of 270 million rands with an increased jail imprisonment for close to 5 years.
No justification of R483 million restitution on Bengis against the actual R5 billion
Well, in this case, it is pretty much unclear, whether the US court has been trying to punish Arnold Bengis and his associates or just trying to find ways to save him with minimal penalty and imprisonment. This is certainly a travesty of justice that the district court turned a blind eye to the whopping amount of R5 billion generated in 14 years of illegal trade and got him scot free with a mere penalty of R483 million, which is just a fraction of the total amount. This level of leniency against a serial offender, just because his color is white, proves that the roots of white supremacy are deeply embedded in the judicial system as well.
Is the period of 16 years not enough to book Arnold Bengis?
Seeing the snail’s pace of judicial inquiry and an influential business lobby working behind Arnold Bengis, nothing positive can be expected from this case. In the duration of almost 16 years of this pending case, we have only observed intentional delay supported by an unusual loop; in which it seems that both the parties have agreed to some ‘under the table’ negotiations where he has been settled for some restitution and the court has been willingly providing him the same for the last 17 years.
For instance, Arnold had settled with the restitution amount of R270 million ($23 million) with the court in 2004, where he only paid R16 million and later fled away to Israel. Since then, all investigations have been pending up till date. Now, the court has ordered him to pay R483 million ($37 million) this year, on the premise of delay in earlier payment and it is obvious that he will delay this updated restitution as well.
He also filed a defamation case of $11 million in 2014 against both the governments (US and South Africa). So, if the authorities were really interested in punishing him, then he should have been behind the bars long back.
White Media’s silence is also conspicuous in this case. However, they have reported some facts of it, but the hype they have been giving to the cases with the involvement of the non-whites is certainly missing here. Anyways, what credibility can be expected from a media group when the whole judicial system itself is hand-in-gloves with the criminals.