Robbers jailed for swift World Cup justice

JOHANNESBURG - A South African court handed rapid punishment to two men who robbed World Cup journalists from Portugal and Spain, sentencing them to 15 years in jail, police said on Saturday.

The robbery last Wednesday raised concerns about sullying South Africa's reputation before the World Cup even started on Saturday. The country's extremely high rates of violent crime were one of the biggest concerns before the tournament.

The armed robbers raided a lodge north of Johannesburg and stole laptops, mobile phones and cash.

National police chief Bheki Cele had congratulated investigators on making swift arrests, which were processed by one of the special courts set up to accelerate justice during the tournament.

"Two of the accused, Bright Madzidzi, 20, and George Magubane, 28, were sentenced to 15 years imprisonment each for armed robbery," said a statement from the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure.

"Ndubuisi Odungwa, 20, was sentenced to four years imprisonment for the possession of stolen property."

TWO CONVICTED

Officials said the two convicted robbers were Zimbabweans and Odungwa was a Nigerian.

Police on Saturday also said team officials from Uruguay declined to press charges over a theft after a person from the team's retinue was caught on closed-circuit television.

Brigadier Sally de Beer said police responded to a report that cash was stolen from the hotel the team, who drew 0-0 with France in their opening game on Friday evening, was staying in Cape Town.

"Police went to the hotel and using CCTV identified a person (travelling with the team). They did not want to press charges," she said.

South Africa hopes a successful World Cup will bring millions more tourists to this country and boost investment. Serious crime during the globe's most watched sporting event could have the opposite effect.

Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said police would act swiftly to deal with criminals.

"The manner in which the investigation was conducted and finalised sends a stern message that our warnings to criminals were not empty threats," Mthethwa he said.

Follow FFT.com on Twitter Join FFT.com on Facebook