R46M BANK HEIST ACCUSED CONVICTED
The nine accused in the R46million bank heist have been found guilty on all charges and will be sentenced today.
Johannesburg High Court Judge Zulisa Tshiqi convicted the men, who had all pleaded not guilty, on counts of armed robbery, attempted murder, possession of firearms and ammunition.
However, the ninth accused, Simon Mncwango, was found guilty of being an accomplice instead of armed robbery. He was the inside man.
Mncwango and his co-accused Elias Thutse, Fabian Damons, Daniel Mathaba, Dick Ngobeni, Jimmy Bilankulu, Muntu Mahlangu, Vincent Xaba and Themba Mahlangu appeared unfazed by the verdict and laughed and chatted with members of the public as soon as the judge adjourned the trial.
In 2006, the nine, armed with R5 rifles, walked into a First National Bank cash centre in the Johannesburg city centre and stole millions of rands. They were dressed in security guard uniforms and had company access cards.
In the surveillance video footage, the robbers are seen collecting boxes of money from various clusters in the building. Bank staff were forced at gunpoint to gather in one corner while the robbery was in progress. It took an hour before the police stormed in, leading to a shootout between the two parties.
Police had been tipped off about the planned robbery.
"I am satisfied that accused number nine (Mncwango) supplied them with inside information. Video footage shows the robbers moving around the bank collecting money. They appeared to know the cash centre very well," said the judge.
Regarded as highly dangerous, the convicted robbers were under guard by about 20 heavily armed police officers and prison warders. They were all handcuffed together with a chain connecting on their waists.
Judge Tshiqi rejected the defence's version that the accused were not the ones in the video footage and that it might have been manipulated to frame them.
She said it was the evidence of the video recordings, photos, fingerprints and DNA combined with the evidence of state witnesses who did not contradict each other that proved the state's case.