Three men found guilty of attempt to extort £500,000

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THREE men have been cleared of using knuckle-dusters and macabre threats to recover a debt of £500,000 from an international financial wheeler-dealer known as “the fake sheikh”.

But property developer Mohammed Asjad (41), of Reedley Road, Reedley – along with hired muscle Mark Putterill (37), of Colne Road, Brierfield, and Ian Williams (50), of Station Road, Padiham – still faces a possible prison sentence for attempted extortion.

They denied assault, robbery and attempted extortion but a jury at Edinburgh High Court found them guilty of attempting to extort 3,187,618 Arab Emirate dirhams, worth £500,000 when they entered the Dunfermline home of Indian-born Richard Cox.

The jury of eight women and seven men deleted from the charge all of allegations of violence – including the knuckle-duster blows, the threat to cut off Mr Cox’s fingers and stealing £120 and other items.

It took a day of legal debate before Judge Lord Kinclaven agreed that the jury’s watered-down verdicts could stand.

The men will be sentenced next month, after the court has considered background reports. Lord Kinclaven allowed them to remain on bail.

Asjad, Putterill and Williams were taken to the High Court in Edinburgh a year ago – to face the same allegations – but that trial was halted when it emerged that a police officer had not passed on notes from her notebook.

Mr Cox (60) claimed that he was confronted by heavily tattooed Williams who accused him of “having his fingers in the till” and suggested hacking them off with garden secateurs.

Mr Cox also said that a blow from ex-boxer Putterill using “something metallic” floored him, and made him see stars.

The trial heard that Mr Cox boasted of hob-nobbing with Middle-Eastern royalty until his signature on a dud cheque sent him scurrying to Scotland to avoid being thrown into a United Arab Emirates jail. He is still on Interpol’s wanted list, bankrupt, and living in a council house in Methil, Fife.

Mr Cox ran Fortune Super Equity Management from the World Trade Centre in Dubai. He agreed to use his influence with the Emirates ruling elite to enable Asjad to buy a stake in the Dana Island scheme in Ras al-Khaimah, a deal which would have cost Asjad £5m.

However, after a down-payment and part of Mr Cox’s £76,000 fee Asjad said he wanted to pull out, claiming that he was being fobbed off with an inferior plot. The row followed Mr Cox to his Dunfermline home.

Asjad had driven there from Burnley in his personalised silver BMW and had taken double-glazing fitter Putterill and demolition worker Williams, along with him.

Mr Cox said that he was “traumatised” as he washed blood from his face after being struck by Putterill and sat down, at Asjad’s insistence, to write a letter promising to pay.

When the men left, he went to a neighbour for help and Asjad’s BMW was stopped by Tazer-wielding police after being spotted on the M6.