Nigel Kampira, along with two others, robbed three teenagers and attempted to rob a fourth, during an incident at Rotherham bus station on September 25, 2009.
Sheffield Crown Court heard how Kampira, then aged 16, left the country for Zimbabwe on October 4, 2009 while on police bail for three counts of robbery, one count of attempted robbery and a further count of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
The court heard how Kampira's right to remain in the country expired in 2010.
Kampira, now aged 25, was given permission to return this year, and when he subsequently flew back to England on May 31 he was immediately arrested on arrival at Heathrow airport.
Describing the circumstances of the robbery, prosecutor, Brian Outhwaite, told the court how all three members of the group were obscuring their faces.
Kampira, of Donovan Road, Shiregreen and a second member of his group had their hoods up as they approached the group, while the third member was wearing a hat.
"They walked over to the males...the first male, who was called Nigel by the others, said to one of the males: 'Put your phone down and give it to me before I shank you'," Mr Outhwaite told the court.
Two of the three males in the group handed over their phones, and when they were joined by a fourth male who had come to help, he was told to show the defendant and his associates what he had in his pocket.
Mr Outhwaite said: "He took out his mobile phone and his wallet, putting them back in his pocket, hoping he might be left alone. But the defendant or one of his colleagues took the phone and wallet out of his pocket...he later went back towards the males and asked for his phone back. One of the males said: 'Are you starting?'.
"He then found himself on the floor after being punched, and was kicked about the head."
Police arrived on the scene a short time later, after being called by staff at the bus station, and Kampira and a second male were arrested. The third male, who has never been identified, managed to escape.
The second male is believed to have been dealt with by the courts following his arrest, but neither prosecution or defence counsel said they could confirm this during Monday's hearing.
Both the victims in the attack and the gang of masked robbers are thought to have been aged around 16 at the time of the incident.
Kampira pleaded guilty to three counts of robbery, to a count of attempted robbery and to a count of assault occasioning actual bodily harm at an earlier hearing.
Defending, Lucy Hogarth, told the court that Kampira left the country shortly after the incident because his family were concerned about his involvement in these offences but also because they were concerned about his education more generally and arranged for him to have an interview with a boarding school in Zimbabwe.
"His parents wrote a letter to his solicitor, but as it turned out he stayed longer than he should have done," said Ms Hogarth.
She added: "He stayed in Zimbabwe caring for his grandfather, and following his grandfather's death in 2013, he made an application to return to the country that was refused. He made another one in 2017 which was refused. That was appealed in 2018 and he was granted permission to return."
Ms Hogarth told Judge Michael Slater that should Kampira be given an immediate custodial sentence, deportation proceedings would automatically be activated and asked him to consider passing a suspended sentence.
Judge Slater sentenced Kampira to two years in prison, suspended for two years, but said he was of the belief Kampira had left the country with the intention of evading the charges brought against him in connection with the 'frightening' joint enterprise robbery.
He told him: "I have decided to take this exceptional course, bearing in mind your personal mitigation...bearing in mind that in 2009 you were only 16-years-old.
"If you keep out of trouble, I am told this sentence should not result in your deportation."