Cambridge graduate admits blackmailing American Express for £6.2m in revenge action

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The Independent Online

A man has pleaded guilty to attempting to blackmail American Express for £6m by claiming to have evidence that employees of the credit card firm were involved in terrorism and corruption.

Kulwant Singh, a 30-year-old Cambridge graduate from Bolton, pleaded guilty to the charge at London's Southwark Crown Court yesterday.

In 2001, Singh claimed to have had £17,000-worth of travellers' cheques stolen while on a trip to India. He reported the loss to Amex's New Delhi branch but they were suspicious of his claim and did not reimburse him.

Singh then returned to Britain and started a High Court action, demanding $14 million (£8m) compensation for missed business opportunities. The case was thrown out. In April last year, he went back to India to visit the branch office.

This time, he burst in with a video camera and started filming staff. By the time police arrived, he had fled. Six months later, he started bombarding the company's New York headquarters with telephone calls demanding to speak to the chief executive.

Instead, in October last year, he was put through to Amex's head of security in New York, David Enders. Singhsaid he had tapes of high-ranking Amex officials engaged in acts of terrorism and corruption, and warned that unless he was paid $10m (£6m) he would hand the footage over to Arab television station Al-Jazeera.

The FBI were called in and kept watch as Singh met Mr Enders in a New Jersey car park where Singh arrived in a hire car rented in his own name with his British driving licence.

After repeating his demands, Singh left. More telephone calls followed, during which Mr Enders promised a special agent was being brought in to deal with the matter. When Singh met the "agent" - an undercover FBI officer - he said he would provide evidence that the tapes existed for a $1m (£600,000) pay-off. They eventually met outside a hotel in Liverpool Street, central London.

As Singh handed over an envelope containing stills taken from his New Delhi video in return for a suitcase full of fake notes, he was arrested.

Sentencing was adjourned until 30 January after his defence counsel said more time was needed to explore "psychiatric issues".