May 28, 2010 / 7:18 AM / in 7 years

South Africa hotel staff charged over Colombia team thefts

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Prosecutors charged two cleaners at a Johannesburg hotel for stealing money from members of Colombia’s national soccer team, in South Africa for a friendly match ahead of the World Cup, police said Friday.

<p>Colombia's Giovanni Moreno (L) is congratulated by his teammates after scoring a goal against South Africa during their international friendly soccer match at Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg, May 27, 2010. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko</p>

Police spokeswomen Sally de Beer said three hotel staff, the only people apart from the players who had access to the five rooms affected, were arrested for the Tuesday theft, but charges were dropped against one person.

They are suspected of stealing about $2,000 and 720 euro ($882) in cash. The players were out of the hotel at the time, training for the match against South Africa. The money was not recovered.

“The prosecuting authority decided to prosecute two of the arrested women, who were employed as cleaners, and withdraw charges against the third, who was a supervisor,” she said.

The hotel in Johannesburg’s affluent Hyde Park suburb is to host Slovenia’s World Cup squad, due on June 7.

Security and crime are major issues ahead of the World Cup, which starts on June 11, because of South Africa’s high rate of violent crime. Crime is among the factors blamed for lower-than-expected foreign bookings to attend the tournament.

Police said the theft was an isolated incident and could not have been prevented by the authorities, and should not distract from efforts to make the World Cup safe.

In June last year Egypt’s soccer team said some players had had their hotel rooms burgled and wallets stolen during the Confederations Cup tournament in South Africa.

Reporting by Gordon Bell; Editing by Matthew Jones

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