Blackmailers claimed to be UVF during threats to businessman, court hears
Blackmailers claimed to be from the Ulster Volunteer Force as part of attempts to get a businessman to hand over £6,000, the High Court heard today.
Death threats against the Co Antrim-based victim and warnings that devices would be planted outside his house were phoned in to the Samaritans, prosecutors said.
Details emerged as bail was refused to one of two men accused of involvement in the plot.
William Robinson, 37, of Beechwood Drive, Balnamore, Ballymoney, faces charges of blackmail and intimidation on dates between last November and January.
Prosecution counsel Philip Henry said those targeting the businessman claimed to be members of the UVF.
He told the court Robinson is not actually believed to have any links to the paramilitary organisation and could have put his own safety at risk by allegedly using its name.
It was claimed that text messages were used to extend the threats to two others known to the businessman.
A meeting was then arranged at a department store car park in Cloughmills.
The court heard a co-accused dressed in a camouflage jacket and with a scarf over his face took £500 from the victim as the first instalment in the demanded £6,000.
However, arrests were made after police became involved.
Opposing bail, Mr Henry claimed there was a risk of interference with the course of justice if Robinson was released.
"During the course of the offending there was an express threat that there would be repercussions if police were contacted," he added.
Dennis Boyd, defending, stressed that Robinson was a trained mechanic who now trades in motor vehicles.
The accused was only at the department store car park on the day of the alleged rendezvous to look at two vans for sale, his lawyer said.
Mr Boyd added that Robinson had no contact with the victim at that location.
But refusing bail, Mr Justice Stephens ruled there was a risk of interference with witnesses.
He added: "There is a prima facie case of an insidious and devious attempt to blackmail and intimidate, a plan of action to completely and comprehensively threaten and damage the lives of three individuals."
Belfast Telegraph Digital