Two former Fidelity security guards were convicted of the theft of R2.9m by the Makhado Magistrate's Court in Limpopo on Monday.
Tinyiko Thomas Maluleke, 41, and Rofhiwa Emmanuel Luvhimbi, 31, conspired and stole almost R2.9m between December last year and January this year, Hawks spokesperson Captain Matimba Maluleke said.
The pair had collected money from various places and instead of making deposits, they pocketed the money.
Their manager reported the theft after Maluleke and Luvhimbi failed to account for the missing money.
An operation comprising the Hawks' Serious Organised Crime Investigation unit, Crime Intelligence, the Makhado Task Team and the Thohoyandou Tactical Response Team was tasked to investigate the matter.
Almost R2.7m was recovered when police arrested the two guards separately in Ravele Riverside and Waterval, just outside Elim.
The team searched three different locations during an overnight operation and found banknotes buried in the suspects' yards, some of it stashed in ice-cream containers and refuse bags while underground.
One of the suspects had already bought a double-cab vehicle and building material, which the investigating team later confiscated.
The pair made a series of court appearances in the Makhado Regional Court until they were recently convicted. The court has sentenced Maluleke and Luvhimbi to nine years' direct imprisonment without the option of a fine.
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