‘Cocaine boat’ auctioned for 450 000 rand

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

The Cape Times newspaper reported on Monday that the proceeds from the sale of the Toledo would be invested by a curator, pending the finalisation of asset forfeiture proceedings instituted by the state.

The proceedings are apparently being opposed by the registered owner, Shaun Packareysammy, 43, of Port Elizabeth. He is one of six men currently standing trial in the Circuit Court in Knysna on charges of dealing in 1716kg of pure cocaine, which police found aboard the Toledo fishing boat moored outside an upmarket Knysna Waterfront flat on December 10, 2010.

Auctioneer Robin Mills joked 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.

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” purchase the Toledo from a Hout Bay yacht broker for R700,000 in September 2010, and that the vessel was registered in his name “for practical reasons”.

In his plea explanation, Packareysammy said he was invited by the Chinese men to be part of a legitimate scheme to purchase 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 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 nationals 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 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.