Three men who stole tourists' handbags in Valletta have each been sentenced to nine months behind bars and ordered to refund their victims.

Mohamed Berkouk, Maalem Abderrahmane and Lazhari Zamouche pleaded guilty to the thefts, which took place over a two-day span last week.

“They came to Malta purposely to steal and were visiting Valletta to carry out more thefts,” prosecuting Inspector Jeffrey Scicluna said during the arraignment.

The trio had preyed upon foreigners holidaying in Malta, the court said. 

Prosecutors highlighted the negative impact the thefts had on Malta's tourism business and said their actions had traumatised the whole country.

The three men, all Algerian nationals, had admitted to stealing when releasing their statements to investigators. On Monday they declared that they were sorry for what they had done and that they wanted to repay their victims.

All three were accused of robbing four victims, taking cash, electronic devices, personal documents and other items.

Magistrate Josette Demicoli declared them guilty and condemned each of them to a nine-month effective jail term.

The court also ordered them to refund the €1,300 stolen within three months. Another €1,100 had already been returned to the victims, the court was told.

Inspector Priscilla Caruana Lee also prosecuted. Lawyers Dustin Camilleri and Graziella Tanti were defence counsel.