Edinburgh bank worker jailed for 2 years for role in heist

Mazahir Abbas Sheikh was a teller at RBS when he organised the robbery. File picture: John Devlin
Mazahir Abbas Sheikh was a teller at RBS when he organised the robbery. File picture: John Devlin
Share this article

A TELLER with the Royal Bank of Scotland, who set up a robbery at the branch of the bank where he worked, has been jailed for two years.

Sentencing 38-year old Mazahir Abbas Sheikh in Edinburgh today, Sheriff Ailstair Noble told him that although he was a first offender, married with a wife and children, given the gravity of the offence nothing other than a custodial sentence was appropriate. On hearing the sentence, Sheikh’s wife, who was in court, gasped and burst onto tears.

Sheikh of Lochend Gardens, Edinburgh, had denied conspiring with 33-year old Kerr Somerville to commit the theft at the Craigentiny Avenue branch of RBS on October 13, 2014; stealing £7829; and failing to identify Somerville at an identity parade. On the fourth day of last month’s trial, however, he changed his plea to guilty.

Somerville, who had only two previous convictions for road traffic offences, pled guilty in August last year to stealing the money, while acting with another man, and was sentenced to ten months.

Giving evidence at Sheikh’s trial, Somerville said the teller had approached him in the summer before the raid. “I was asked if I would take part in getting the money. I was actually pretty shocked when it was put to me. I was in need of money at the time”.

• READ MORE: ‘Wasteful’ deals under scrutiny as checks continue at city’s schools

Somerville said he was told to come to the counter where Sheikh was serving and the money would be put under the shutter and no attention would be paid to him. He was also told not to come in on certain days because there were people working there who would recognise him. He said he received a text to come in “after the next customer”.

“I could see Maz through the window and he signalled to me and I went in. I just handed Maz the note and that was it. He gave me the money”. Asked what the note said, he replied: “Don’t say a word. Give me the money or I am going to shoot”. He added that he was not armed.

Sheikh, he said, began giving him piles of money in a bag. The bag turned out to be a “dye bag”, which banks use if a robbery takes place and which explodes when it passes an electronic signal at the front door. Somerville said he had put the bag in his under garments and was covered in red dye when it burst. He told the court that Sheikh “walked away with £1500” of the bank’s money.

Sheikh had told the jury that Somerville came to his home on the morning of the robbery and told him about getting money from the bank. “He said his position was very bad. He owed a lot of money to a lot of people. He said I had to do it or there would be consequences. I was scared for my life and my wife and children. I was confused and scared”.

Defence solicitor, Victoria Good, told Sheriff Noble today that her client had never been involved with the police or court system before. “His wife and children are the most important people to him and he is very, very anxious about what will happen”.

• READ MORE: Richard Lochhead may face police probe over ‘dirty tricks’

She added: “It is still his position that fearing for his wife and family he made the decision”.

Sheriff Noble told Sheikh he took into consideration the ten month sentence passed on Somerville, but Somerville, he said, had pled guilty at the first opportunity and had not been an employee of the bank. “You were and in your case it was a breach of trust. You conspired to steal from your employers and you attempted to pervert the course of justice by lying to the police that the robbery had been committed by someone you didn’t know”.

Scotsman Food & Drink: ideas, inspiration and guides