A 70-year-old Braybrook man caught with 1.25 tonnes of abalone has been given a two-anda-half year suspended jail sentence for operating three illegal abalone processing plants.
Last week the Geelong County Court ordered the sentence on Tim Truong and imposed fines and forfeiture orders totaling $155,000.
The trial in followed a complex investigation named Operation Krypton that ended in October 2008. The trial went for over two years with Truong being convicted after the court heard the abalone were found at three premises in Highton, South Geelong and Braybrook.
At all three sites, Fisheries Officers found illegally taken abalone, cans, canning equipment and labels. The court heard that during the investigation it was clearly evident that many in the abalone and associated industry believed Truong was a licensed abalone processor.
Judge Parson heard that Truong did not hold a fish receiver’s licence. A person or company not holding a licence can only possess the daily limit of abalone, which was ten at the time of the arrest. It was alleged that Truong was preparing, processing, taking for sale, selling and receiving the abalone for the purpose of trafficking.
At the Braybrook house, Truong’s principal residence, Fisheries Officers recovered 637 filled and sealed abalone cans with a total weight of 270kgs, another 67kgs of abalone meats and 2,000 loose labels for steel and plastic cans. At Highton they recovered 1163 steel cans of abalone with a total weight of 494kgs and more than 100,000 labels for cans. At South Geelong they found another 511kgs of abalone meats in processed (labelled and contained in bags) and semi-processed form throughout the factory.
Fisheries Victoria’s Chief Investigator Murray Donaldson said the outcome was the result of a major co-operative effort involving AQIS, PrimeSafe, Customs, Victoria police and South Australian and NSW Fisheries.
'The protection of our abalone industry is a compliance priority and disrupting and dismantling serious and organised fisheries crime is our core business,' Mr Donaldson said.
'We work with many other agencies to ensure we maximise the impact on fisheries criminals and this particularly includes identifying and forfeiting assets that are the proceeds of crime. 'We also received great assistance from abalone processors, freight forwarding companies, cold storage companies, Asian grocery and duty free outlets and Asian restaurants.
'If people in industry were aware Truong is not a licensed processor they could assist indirectly with his rehabilitation by not dealing with him.
'He is likely to go to jail if he re offends.'