A FARMER at the centre of a land battle with US tycoon Donald Trump has been charged with theft after allegedly stealing flags from the billionaire.
Michael Forbes, 57, is involved in a dispute with Trump because he will not sell him land for his 750 million Aberdeenshire golf course.
The row took a new twist when Mr Forbes removed flags which Trump had put up to mark the boundaries of his land.
Trump's team claim the 25 flags, worth around 10 each, were on their property, but Mr Forbes claims they were on his land.
A week after he took them, police officers turned up at Forbes's farmhouse home and he was charged with theft.
He was given a formal warning, which means he has a criminal record but won't have to go to court or face any further proceedings.
Mr Forbes said: "I couldn't believe it when I was charged with theft.
"The flags were on my land so I took them down to prove a point. As soon as the police turned up I handed the flags over.
"I am certainly not a thief and just wanted rid of the flags. This is just another example of the Trump Organisation trying to intimidate me."
Trump wants to build the "best golf course in the world" on the Menie Estate in Balmedie, Aberdeenshire.
He has permission for 500 houses, 950 holiday homes, a 450-bedroom hotel and two championship courses. But he also wants to build on land that he does not own, including Mr Forbes's 23-acre smallholding which is beside where the tycoon wants his hotel.
He has tried to buy Mr Forbes's land but the farmer has refused, sparking a row between the pair, but the police did not get involved until last week.
Mr Forbes said he became concerned as soon as he saw the flags, which are made up of sharp metal wire.
He said: "I was worried that they might hurt my two grandsons. They were on my land so I could remove them if I wanted to. But I had no plans to keep them for myself."
A week later the police turned up at Mr Forbes's home and he handed back the flags.
The matter was disposed of with the formal warning, which meant it was taken no further after he was charged.
However, Mr Forbes said: "I wanted my day in court. I wanted to be able to stand up and talk about everything that's been happening.
"I would have been able to clear my name if it had gone to court. But there's nothing I can do about it now."
The flags are now back in place and the Trump Organisation has sent Mr Forbes a letter telling him they are now going to build a fence between their land and his.
Last night, Sarah Malone, Trump's Scottish spokeswoman, said: "It's unfortunate that it's come to this.
"But people have to live with the consequences of their actions and that's why Mr Forbes has been charged with theft.
"The cost of the flags was nominal. But it's not about the money, this is about the work done by our team to mark out the boundaries of our land.
"The police have taken this matter very seriously, as have we."
Grampian Police said Mr Forbes now has a criminal record, but will not have to go to court and a report will not be sent to the procurator-fiscal.
A police spokesman said: "A 57-year-old was charged with theft from the Menie Estate. He has been given a formal adult warning letter, which is used in circumstances where the officer believes a relatively minor crime has been committed and the person involved has no notable history of involvement with the police previously."