Bengis prevented from accessing Jersey millions

Former Cape Town fishing magnate Arnold Bengis

Former Hout Bay Fishing Industries owner Arnold Bengis, 82, will not be allowed to access millions of pounds stashed on the island of Jersey, a self-governing dependency of the United Kingdom.

This week, the Jersey Evening Post reported that the island’s Royal Court had decided to maintain a freeze on Mr Bengis’s assets.

Between 1987 and 2001, Mr Bengis and his co-conspirators, his son David and his former business partner, Jeffrey Noll, were involved in poaching huge quantities of rock lobster and then exporting it illegally to the US.

Mr Bengis was sentenced to 46 months in jail, his son to one year and Mr Noll to 30 months. They were all released after serving their terms.

In July last year, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries asked a New York federal court to help recover Mr Bengis’s assets.

In a plea deal in 2004, the judge ordered Mr Bengis pay $5.9 million, but South Africa then asked Mr Bengis and his co-accused to pay restitution to the government. While this was rejected in 2007, in 2011 the US Court of Appeals overturned the lower court’s decision, and in 2012 they were ordered to pay $22.5 million.

US District Judge, Lewis Kaplan, was to order a re-sentencing of Mr Bengis because “he has failed to make some $21 million of outstanding restitution”, according to the report.

The court also heard that Mr Bengis had allegedly stashed money on the island of Jersey.

However, South Africa requested that Judge Kaplan not order a new forfeiture penalty with only the Jersey assets in mind, believing that it was not the only place that he stashed money.

The Jersey Evening Post, in a report published on Sunday April 22, said the Royal Court was asked to rule whether Mr Bengis could have access to more than $23 million stashed in Jersey.

“Around $23.3 million of Mr Bengis’s money was ‘held by three companies with SG Hambos Bank (Channel Islands) Limited in Jersey’, according a judgment issued by the Royal Court setting out its reasons for rejecting the appeal,” the newspaper said.

On July 21 last year, following a request from US authorities, Jersey’s attorney general, Robert MacRae, granted a forfeiture order of $37.2 million.

“Liechtenstein-based First Trust Management Limited AG brought the appeal and applied for the forfeiture to be lifted. However, the court deemed that there was strong suspicion that proceeds from Bengis’ crimes, committed in the US, had ‘somehow’ found their way into one of the companies listed in the forfeiture order,” the newspaper said.

According to the judgment, the court did not consider the prospects of the attorney general as “being so weak” that the forfeiture order be lifted.

DAFF did not respond to Sentinel queries sent on Tuesday April 24.