Stoke City striker Saido Berahino has been convicted of drink-driving after admitting he drove for 30 seconds after having two mojito cocktails.
The 25-year-old has been banned for 30 months and fined £75,000, after he was found to be almost three times the legal limit when his black Range Rover was stopped in London’s West End in the early hours of 18 February.
However, he claimed he only got behind the wheel because he feared an armed gang, who had robbed him just minutes beforehand, would return to attack him and his group, including his girlfriend and niece.
The Burundi-born player told Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court: “I just felt like I was targeted because I was a professional footballer and the guys knew who I was.
“I was scared. I had just been attacked and obviously my niece was there, and I had to take action. I had to drive off from the scene,” he continued. “They had a knife and a gun as well.”
Berahino denied one count of drink-driving on the basis he was acting “under duress of circumstances” but on Wednesday magistrates found him guilty of the offence.
Chair of the bench Mark Oxenham said the prosecution had not proved their case beyond reasonable doubt “that the defendant was not in fear of death or fear of serious injury to himself or his companions”.
He said Berahino’s girlfriend, who was sober at the time, had driven the car immediately before and “could have continued the journey away from the scene”.
The court heard Berahino – who has previous convictions for drink-driving in 2015 and being drunk in charge of a vehicle in 2012 – has no current income, after he was suspended from Stoke without pay. His outgoings are said to be around £20,000 a month.
Berahino joined Stoke for an initial £12m in January 2017 from West Brom, but has not played since the incident, claiming it has had a “massive impact” on his career.
“The club has taken a stance on it. I was suspended from first team action to play for the team,” said the footballer. “That was the last thing I wanted.”
His barrister said Berahino, who plays international football for Barundi, is due to appear in the African Cup of Nations this summer.
He is due to leave the country for a training camp on 20 May and could be away until 13 July.