TWO Mozambicans have been arrested at Plumtree Border Post while allegedly smuggling R26 million worth of sea snails weighing almost two tonnes.
A third unnamed accomplice allegedly escaped after pretending he was going to buy airtime to call the owner of the truck the suspects were using.
Santos Lourenco Nhamache (44) and Carlose Lourenco (43) both of Maputo had concealed the snails, also known as abalone, in a secret compartment of a car they were travelling in.
A scanner at the Plumtree Border Post detected the presence of the sea snails leading to their arrest.
The sea snails, a variety of shell fish, are a delicacy in most parts of the world.
Santos and Carlose were not asked to plead when they appeared briefly before Plumtree magistrate, Mr Taurai Manwere, facing a charge of using a vehicle with a secret compartment adapted for the purpose of concealing goods.
They were remanded in custody to September 20.
Prosecuting, Mr Charles Nyatsine said the pair was intercepted on Monday around 12 noon.
“On September 4 the two accused persons and a third person who is still at large arrived at the Plumtree Border Post from Botswana in a South African registered Hino Super F truck that was being driven by Santos.
“They later drove to the Zimra scanning shed at the border post and Santos surrendered his passport and an empty manifesto to a Zimra official and proceeded for scanning of the vehicle,” he said.
Mr Nyatsine said during the scanning process an image analyst noticed some small balls in the vehicle and alerted Mr Lewis Sibanda who is a Zimra scanner.
He said Zimra officials conducted a physical check of the vehicle in the presence of the two men and their accomplice and discovered a secret compartment.
Mr Nyatsine said the pair’s accomplice whose identity is unknown told the Zimra scanner that he wanted to make a call to the owner of the vehicle so that he could verify what was in the car.
“He went away under the pretence of buying airtime but he didn’t come back. Zimra officials found 72 cartoons of abalone weighing 1,672 kilogrammes.
“They were seized by Zimra officials and Santos and Carlose were arrested,” said Mr Nyatsine.
He said the abalone is valued at R26 752 000.