Cheik Tioté has narrowly escaped prison after admitting possession of a fake Belgian driving licence but must complete 180 hours of community service. Newcastle United's Ivorian midfielder, captaining Alan Pardew's side in the absence of the injured Fabricio Coloccini, was handed a seven-month suspended sentence at the city's crown court on Monday.
Speaking through a translator, the 27-year-old admitted buying a fake Belgian licence for £12,800 (€15,000) and subsequently attempting to swap the forgery for a full UK licence.
Tony Hawks, prosecuting, said Tioté met a man near Brussels airport and handed over the cash and a photograph of himself. The Ivory Coast international then sent it off to the DVLA in Swansea with an application for a UK licence. "The licence was a very good forgery but there were a number of features that showed it was a forgery," Hawks said. "The offence is aggravated by what he has done as he sought to change base metal into gold."
Suspending the imprisonment for 18 months, Judge James Goss QC told Tioté that he would have to complete 180 hours of unpaid work. "I give you credit for your plea of guilty, which has saved you from an immediate sentence of imprisonment," he said. "In that way you will be punished and I have no doubt that, using your considerable talent, you will be able to assist others in the community by encouraging them and passing on your skills that way."
Tioté also received a £600 fine and six points on his licence after admitting driving a motor vehicle otherwise than in accordance with a licence. He pleaded not guilty to a charge of driving with no insurance and that will be dealt with at magistrates' court. He was ordered to pay prosecution costs of £3,795 and a victim surcharge of £100. No evidence was offered on a charge of making a false statement to obtain insurance and a verdict of not guilty was given.
As Tioté waited in court for his case to be heard, Newcastle's official Twitter account – apparently oblivious to the gravity of the situation – invited fans to submit their questions to the player via the social media network with his most interesting answers to be published in this Saturday's match programme.