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Brazil fraud case graduates to appeal

Two British law graduates who falsely claimed £1,000 of belongings were stolen during a robbery in Brazil plan to appeal against a community service punishment, their lawyer said.

Shanti Andrews and Rebecca Turner, both 23, were sentenced yesterday at a court hearing in Rio de Janeiro after earlier admitting charges of attempted insurance fraud.

They admitted falsely claiming a series of items including a purse, a mobile phone and a digital camera were stolen during an excursion.

Ms Andrews, from Frant, near Tunbridge Wells, Kent, and Ms Turner, from Woolton Hill, near Newbury, Berkshire, were initially sentenced to one year and five months in prison at the hearing yesterday, but the punishment was converted to community service.

The women - who studied at the University of Sussex - were said to be "relieved" at avoiding jail but face staying in Brazil for several months while the appeal takes place.

Their lawyer, Renato Tonini said: "We can appeal against this sentence and we are going to do this, so it might be changed by the high court.

"They are confident that a superior court will change that into a fine penalty.

"They feel relieved because there was the possibility of a prison sentence. It was better than they thought would happen."

On the prospect of the graduates spending more time in Brazil, Mr Tonini added: "They are very worried about that. They want to get back to England as soon as possible."

He said the two graduates remained "very calm" during the court hearing, which was also attended by Ms Andrews' father.

They were arrested on July 26 after allegedly telling police that belongings totalling about £1,000 were stolen during a bus journey while they were on a nine-month world tour.

Police who dealt with the graduates apparently became suspicious by what was described as their "quietness" when they reported the losses.

Following their arrests they were taken into custody, but freed on bail a week later after their lawyer appealed against a judge's initial decision to refuse them bail.

They have since been staying at a hotel in Rio, which they were bailed to following their first court appearance.

After they were held by police, Ms Andrews' mother, Simone Headley, said the two friends were traumatised by their ordeal and that it had been a "misunderstanding" at the end of their trip.