A Premier League footballer has narrowly avoided jail after he admitted possessing a fake driving licence.
Newcastle United midfielder Cheick Tiote was handed a seven-month suspended sentence after he admitted buying a fake Belgian licence for 15,000 euros (£12,800).
He then attempted to swap the forgery for a full UK licence, Newcastle Crown Court heard .
Tony Hawks, prosecuting, said that when passing through Belgium, the Ivory Coast international met a man near Brussels airport and handed over the cash and a photograph of himself.
He then attempted to send 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,” said Mr Hawks.
“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 Tiote 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.”
Tiote also received a fine of £600 and six points on his licence after he admitted driving a motor vehicle otherwise than in accordance with a licence in February.
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.
Earlier in the day, when Tiote was waiting in court for his case to be heard, Newcastle United’s official Twitter account was inviting fans to submit their questions to him.
Telling fans to use the askTiote hashtag, they said the best questions would be put to him this afternoon.
The stream was quickly hijacked by Sunderland supporters asking him about losing the Tyne-Wear derby the day before.