You might not know the name Arnold Bengis, but the 81-year-old former Hout Bay fishing magnate has had a pretty torrid week.
A Manhattan federal judge has handed down a damning ruling, ordering that Bengis must now pay South Africa $37-million (R483 million) for catching thousands of tons of rock lobster over a period of 14 years.
It’s not a complete surprise, given that the first ruling on the restitution payments in 2004 ordered him to pay over $20 million, but his failure to act on that ruling has really done him in.
Times LIVE below:
Because he paid only $1.25-million and placed the rest “out of reach of the US”, Manhattan District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan sentenced him on Wednesday to more than four years’ imprisonment.
Kaplan ordered an immediate arrest warrant for Bengis [below], now living in Israel. State attorney Kiersten Fletcher said US authorities would try to extradite him.
Said the judge: “There is value to Mr Bengis understanding that.there may be a knock at the door and a pair of handcuffs in his future.”
The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries wanted $100-million in restitution but it welcomed Kaplan’s judgment.
He may have shut down his fishing empire 17 years ago, but the damage to the ecosystem is still being felt by those fishing communities who rely on the ocean to survive:
[Former department head of fisheries Horst Kleinschmidt] said yesterday that when officials discovered the extent of Bengis’s plunder “it made nonsense of any scientific inquiry” into environmental factors behind declining fish stocks.
“He hired lots of little fishermen with boats to supply him with contraband fish stocks. The decline is evident in the total allowable catch figures, which the scientists set lower and lower. Once he was caught, we realised he was a major source of that,” he said.
His fleet of trawlers overfished more than 2200t of West Coast rock lobster between 1987 and 2000. The $37-million was the proceeds of just one year, plus interest, said an Ocean and Land Resources Assessment Consultants report.
What an absolute cretin.
Judge Lewis Kaplan also told the court that Bengis had “rearranged” his assets, funnelling an estimated $25 million into a Channel Islands fund to avoid the US government catching wind of them.
As mentioned Bengis now lives in Israel, so US prosecutors will need to bring him back if they want to lock him up behind bars.
Here’s hoping they succeed.
This summer, hundreds of thousands of tourists will visit Cape Town, stroll around the Wat...
Banting, boet. For the better part of five or six years, South Africa has been hearing ...
If you suffer from herpetophobia, you suffer from an irrational fear of reptiles, especia...
I'm sure there are a lot of things that you remember about getting your first iPhone. T...
People have taken to social media with the slogan #boycottsinsofstyle, after a Cape Town p...