r46m bank gang

FOUR of the nine men who stole R46million in a bank heist have previous convictions, with one currently serving a five-year jail sentence.

FOUR of the nine men who stole R46million in a bank heist have previous convictions, with one currently serving a five-year jail sentence.

Elias Thutse, 34, Fabian Damons, 32, Daniel Mathaba, 42, Dick Ngobeni, 26, Jimmy Bilankulu, 37, Samson Mahlangu, 42, Vincent Xaba, 29, Themba Mahlangu, 32, and Simon Mncwango, 40, were found guilty of armed robbery, attempted murder, possession of a firearm and possession of ammunition.

In 2006 the nine carried out the biggest bank robbery the country has ever seen when they walked into a First National Bank cash centre armed with rifles and stole millions of rands.

But their defence lawyers do not understand what the hype around the case is all about since "nobody was killed".

One of the defence counsel, Advocate Tumi Ntshwane, argued in the Johannesburg high court that the case was not high profile, saying it was a mere robbery case that did not need media attention.

Ntshwane was addressing the court after the defence opposed the state's application to have the proceedings open to electronic media.

Presiding Judge Zukisa Tshiqi eventually ruled that TV cameras be allowed in the courtroom, provided they take footage only of the judge and not the accused and their defence counsel.

The defence had also raised issues about police officers guarding the accused who did not want to give them privacy during consultation. Mathaba, Ngobeni and Xaba have all been convicted and sentenced in the past while (Samson) Mahlangu has two criminal records. He was sentenced to three years imprisonment for possession of firearm in 2001 and convicted of theft in 2006.

The convicted robbers were due to be sentenced yesterday but the matter had to be postponed after their defence counsel asked for more time to consult.

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