THREE Zimbabweans and a Mozambican national were arrested in Cape Town, South Africa, on Thursday for being in possession of abalone worth an estimated R3.8 million (about $262,000).
Police said the four, who were arrested after a tip-off, were running an illegal abalone processing plant in Cape Town.
A police spokesman, Colonel Tembinkosi Kinana, confirmed the arrest.
"R3.8 million worth of abalone was seized and four men were arrested when various police units responded to information of abalone smuggling at a smallholding in Philadelphia, Western Cape," Kinana said.
"The operation secured the apprehension of three Zimbabwean nationals aged 32, 36 and 37 and one Mozambican national, aged 26. Various items such as a large stainless steel cooking pot, burners, fans, gas cylinders and drying shelves were seized in the process."
Abalone is a type of large snail found in the ocean. It is a highly prized delicacy and is also used as an aphrodisiac in the Far East.
A protected species in South Africa, abalone fetches a high price on the black market.
Police said they also discovered a storeroom at the farm with three drying rooms which were used to dry abalone.
Kinana said the seized abalone weighed an estimated 2.7 tonnes. The police said the latest arrests should send a clear message to criminals that the long arm of the law will catch up with them.
The suspects are expected to appear in the Atlantis Magistrates' Court soon to answer charges of illegal possession of abalone.