Dundee Taliban murder threat associate jailed for perjury

Discovery Fish and Pizza Bar, which was at the centre of the two trials. Picture: Google Streetview
Discovery Fish and Pizza Bar, which was at the centre of the two trials. Picture: Google Streetview
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A BUSINESSMAN whose lies under oath helped clear a man accused of threatening a business associate with murder by the Taliban has been jailed.

Mohammed Arshid admitted a charge of perjury after he gave false evidence during the trial of Mohammed Yasin at Dundee Sheriff Court.

Yasin stood trial accused of extortion after he allegedly took up to £5,000 from Zubaier Akhter by showing him pictures of men with guns and rocket launchers, pointing a gun at his head and threatening him and his family with death.

But he was cleared by a jury in November 2010 after Arshid lied to the court.

A sheriff told Arshid: “Lies can mean truly guilty people walk free - perjury strikes at the fundamental basis of our system of justice.”

During the trial Arshid told the court he had not leased a building in Dundee’s Nethergate, the Discovery Fish and Pizza Bar, to a woman called Margaret Akhtar.

He claimed that Mrs Akhtar - the wife of the man who claimed he was threatened by Yasin - had actually sub-let the premises from Yasin and was lying when she claimed to have done the deal with Arshid.

Almost two years after he first appeared in court charged with perjury and after months of extensive investigations in the UK and Pakistan, Arshid finally admitted lying under oath.

He admitted that he had in fact signed the lease with Mrs Akhtar - a key fact that was disputed at Yasin’s trial and that had been denied by Arshid throughout.

Fiscal depute Trina Sinclair told Dundee Sheriff Court: “The defence for the accused in the original trial that the money the Crown said had been extorted was in fact legitimate rents he collected.

“The issue of who leased the building to who was crucial. Arshid was found and said he regarded Margaret Akhtar as his tenant.

“However, during the trial he was called as a defence witness and maintained that he had not leased it to her and denied it was his signature on the lease document.

“His evidence was important and the accused was acquitted.”

The trial heard Mr Akhter had gone to Yasin’s house where he was led into a room and shown pictures of a group of men in what he believed to be Afghanistan

He added: “They were men with big turbans and were carrying guns and rocket launchers.

“Yasin was in the picture. He was holding a gun. It was a recent picture - maybe three or four years ago.

“He said ‘we do help the Taliban and we are with them’.”

He said he was “100 per cent” sure the pictures of men shown to him were Taliban as he had spent a year working as a policeman in Pakistan on the Afghan border, and the Taliban wore different clothes to normal civilians.

Giving evidence in his own defence, Yasin told the court the men in the pictures were actors and that he had worked in the film industry in the area in previous years.

He said they were simply “acting like Rambo” in the shots.

Mrs Akhtar said she had taken over the running of her husband’s chip shop when he fell ill and signed a lease with the building’s owner, Mohammed Arshid.

But one Sunday in 2009 she returned to the shop to find her husband in the downstairs office handing over money to Yasin.

She said: “Zubaier touched my feet, which is a big thing in Islam.

“He was crying and he said ‘Give him money or give him the keys to the shop because he will kill my family back home’.”

Arshid, 57, of Seaforth Road, Broughty Ferry, Dundee, pleaded guilty on indictment to a charge of perjury.

Defence advocate Ronnie Renucci said: “His judgement became badly clouded and pressure was put on him.

“It really is a story of personal tragedy resulting in financial and personal ruin.

“He was previously a successful businessman but has lost those businesses and has since been sequestrated.”

Sheriff George Way deferred jailed Arshid for 17 months.

He said: “Perjury has to be seen as a serious crime as it strikes at the fundamental basis of our system of justice and the integrity and accuracy of decisions in court.

“You lied when giving evidence in a jury trial which is a very grave crime.

“Integrity lies at the root of your own personal faith and breaching that has a profound impact, and will have brought you shame and condemnation.

“However, I can’t accept the gravity of the crime you committed merits anything else than custody.”