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'robbers used access cards to enter bank'

Dudu Busani

Dudu Busani

Two of the nine accused in the R46million bank robbery used security access cards to enter the bank, the Johannesburg high court heard yesterday.

Dick Ngobeni, 26, and Maxwell Mahlangu, 40, who are accused numbers four and eight respectively, were dressed in Group Four Security uniform and had access cards, while accused number nine, Simon Mncwango, 40, worked for the company.

The three men and their six co-accused are standing trial for armed robbery, attempted murder, unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition. In February 2006, they allegedly robbed an FNB branch in the Johannesburg city centre, which ended in a shoot-out with police. Some of the accused were arrested inside the bank while others were nabbed outside while trying to flee with an estimated R46million.

The case has been surrounded by controversy after about 12 armed men recently broke into the office of the state prosecutor, Deon van Wyk, and stole case documents, including indictments that contained the names and addresses of state witnesses.

On Wednesday, Van Wyk launched an application requesting that the public, be it friends or family members of the accused, be barred from entering the courtroom during trial proceedings - the reason being that state witnesses fear for their lives after the incident.

"The witnesses have no objection, if the sought order is granted, that representatives of the media report on the case, as long as their identities are protected," Van Wyk said.

The application was dismissed by Presiding Judge Zukisa Tshiqi, stating that, even if the public was barred from court, the accused would still see the witnesses and nothing would stop them from intimidating them if they wanted to.

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