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Three East Lancashire men spared jail over 'fake sheikh' extortion bid
THREE men who carried out an extortion bid on a Scottish businessman dubbed “the fake sheikh” have all been spared jail.
Richard Cox was confronted at his home in Fife by former Keirby Hotel owner and property developer Mohammed Asjad amid claims that he had conned him in a lucrative Middle East land deal.
Asjad – joined by hired muscle Mark Putterill and Ian Willams – stole Mr Cox’s passport and ordered to him to make a written pledge to hand over three million Arab Emirate dirhams – worth around £500,000.
Asjad, 41, of Reedley Road, Reedley, Mark Putterill, 37, of Colne Road, Nelson, and Ian Williams, 50, of Station Road, Padiham, were caught when Asjad’s private registration BMW was stopped as the men travelled back to England.
The three men appeared at the High Court in Glasgow after being convicted of attempted extortion.
In a bid to avoid a jail term, Asjad’s QC, on his behalf, handed a judge a clutch of references from people including a local MEP, councillors and an accountant.
Lord Kinclaven said that he had decided that there was an alternative to custody for all three. Former Burnley Keirby Hotel owner Asjad was sentenced to 200 hours community service while Putterill and Williams must carry out 100 hours of unpaid work.
A trial heard how Indian-born Mr Cox had agreed to use his influence with the Emirates ruling elite to allow Asjad to buy a £5m plot in a development on Dana Island in Ras al-Khaimah.
Asjad handed over a down-payment and part of Mr Cox’s £76,000 fee – before the property developer said he wanted to pull out amid suspicions about the deal.
The three accused eventually travelled to Mr Cox’s home in Crossford, Fife in November 2010.
Mr Cox – who had an office in Dubai – had earlier fled to Scotland after a signature on a dud cheque could have landed him in an Arab jail.
It led to him being put on Interpol’s wanted list and being made bankrupt.
Mr Cox claimed in evidence that tattooed Williams spoke about hacking off his fingers with garden secateurs.