Published: 10:00, 16 December 2016
| Updated: 10:52, 16 December 2016
A businessman who caused fear, widespread disruption and financial loss when he placed a fake bomb at a bank has been jailed for three years and four months.
Reginald Esqulant denied blackmail but was convicted by a jury in August. Sentence was adjourned for a psychiatric report.
Judge David Griffith-Jones QC said he sentenced on the basis it was a vindictive act.
"There was no expectation of securing substantial sums of money and no particular intention to cause substantial financial loss to the bank," he said.
"Inevitably, there had been some short term limited financial loss."
The judge described the offence as "bizarre and hare-brained".
Maidstone Crown Court heard he committed the bizarre crime - trying to extort money from Santander Bank - because he was heavily in debt.
The bank and surrounding area in Sevenoaks were evacuated after he handed over a letter in which he threatened to explode the device if the cash was not paid.
Judge David Griffith-Jones QC described the offence as extraordinary.
Esqulant claimed he only wanted to speak to the manager about threatening letters and telephone calls he had been receiving about a missing mortgage payment of £2,196 for his family home in Harrietsham.
The 74-year-old father of three insisted he had no intention of getting money from the bank and just wanted to confront the manager and ask how he would like it if he received threatening letters.
But prosecutor Jennifer Oborne said Esqulant was desperate for money because he was in serious debt and faced a demand at the time from HM Revenue and Customs for over £106,162.
Esqulant, of Fawkham Road, West Kingsdown, admitted making the hoax but denied blackmail.
He also denied taking a car without authority and driving while disqualified, but was also convicted of those offences.
He was banned from driving for three years and nine months.
Wearing one latex glove, Esqulant went to the High Street bank on February 8 this year and passed the letter in an envelope to cashier Patricia Booth in the reception area.
He left the bank after he tried to light a cigarette and was told he could not smoke in the building.
Miss Oborne said Esqulant had written the letter in the bank. The money was to be left in an empty butchers shop in an alleyway called The Shambles.
Staff were initially not sure what to make of it but then saw that a brown box had been left in the reception area.
The Army was brought in and the package was examined and destroyed.
Prosecutor Antony Hook said the economic impact had been impossible to quantify. The High Street was closed for up to six hours and the bus route had to be closed."A great many people had their lives disrupted," said Mr Hook.The maximum sentence for blackmail was 14 years imprisonment.The judge told Esqulant, who ran pubs: "Your actions on that day were calculated. In short, they generated a state of extreme fear and caused considerable disruption.
"Your actions were bizarre to the extent your plan could be said to be hare brained."
As Esqulant was not found to have any mental disorder he had to conclude his actions were "simply wicked".
He added: "Your behaviour was malevolent, malicious and without excuse, designed to create mayhem and instil terror in particular to members of staff at the branch."
More by this authorKeith Hunt