ATM gang man gets 15 years

2012-07-23 00:00

A 27-YEAR-OLD man was jailed for 15 years by a Pietermaritzburg high court judge on Friday after pleading guilty to taking part in two ATM bombing incidents in KwaZulu-Natal in July 2011.

Sphamandla Chonco admitted taking part in bombing First National Bank ATMs at the Osizweni Total Garage, near Newcastle, on July 15 last year.

The bombers escaped with R179 540 in cash.

He also took part in the bombing of Absa Bank ATMs at the eMondlo Municipality community centre near Nqutu on July 16, 2011, when R640 000 was taken.

According to the indictment, a security guard at the community centre, Norman Masondo, was shot dead after emerging to investigate the cause of an explosion and was robbed of his firearm by the bombers.

Another man, Liberty Nkosi, who was walking past the centre at the time, was shot in the face and a vehicle driven by policeman Joseph Mchunu was damaged by gunfire during the incident.

Chonco was not charged in relation to the shooting incidents, and said in his plea to the court that he was not armed during either of the robberies.

He pleaded guilty before Judge Jerome Mnguni to two counts of robbery with aggravating circumstances relating to the bombings.

In a statement read to the court by his lawyer, Kelvin Singh, Chonco said he and a group of others took turns to break open the ATMs with crowbars, before one of the gang connected electrical wires from the machines to a car battery.

In the Osizweni incident, one ATM opened as a result of the explosion.

Chonco said that while they were busy removing money from the machine, a person drove up in a white Toyota Corolla and began shooting at them.

After armed members of the group fired in return, the man drove away. They then left the scene.

Chonco said he received R12 000 from that robbery.

The following day they blew open two ATMs at the eMondlo community centre and Chonco received R35 000.

He said he was arrested on January 21 this year and immediately made a full disclosure to police about his involvement in the incidents.

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