26 Aug 2010

Fugitive Asil Nadir returns to UK for ‘justice’

The fugitive tycoon Asil Nadir returns to the UK to face fraud allegations at the Old Bailey, after spending nearly two decades on the run with a pledge to win “justice”.

Twenty years after the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) started investigating his company, businessman Asil Nadir has returned to the UK to face up to 66 charges against him at the Old Bailey.

The 69-year-old flew into Luton airport just before 1.30pm and was met by the Serious Fraud Office investigators and immigration officials who were on hand to process his documents.

A grey Jaguar, with a police escort, was waiting for him.

His lawyers are expected to hand his newly-issued British passport to Serious Fraud Office investigators later.
Before his flight, he said he felt it was time for closure after 20 years of injustice.

He will also have to be electronically tagged.

The businessman is due to appear at the Old Bailey on 3 September to face 66 counts of theft involving £34m fraud allegations in May 1993 when he fled Britain to northern Cyprus, which has no extradition treaty or agreement with the UK.

Mr Nadir is expected to pay a £250,000 surety to gain bail.

The Conservative party donor, who presided over the collapse of Polly Peck, appeared in court in 1992, but had not technically surrendered to his bail.

A subsequent arrest warrant, issued on the basis that Mr Nadir had breached his bail terms was therefore not valid.

Asil Nadir business factfile  
• Born in Northern Cyprus in 1941, the son of a prominent Turkish Cypriot businessman who moved his family to Britain in the 1950s.
• In the late 1970s, Nadir took control of listed shell company Polly Peck via a reverse takeover, and used his stock market status to raise the cash to set up a Northern Cyprus fruit-packing subsidiary, Sunzest, and Unipac, a cardboard box factory, via a share issue.
• During the next four years, Polly Peck expanded into consumer electronics and hotel franchises as well as fruit and vegetable packing.
• In 1983, the share price crashed, after hitting a high of £35, after rumours circulated that the Turkish authorities were about to withdraw vital tax concessions.
• But by 1990, the share price had recovered to 450p, valuing the company at £2 billion.
• 70 per cent of the profits recorded at Polly Peck's head office in London supposedly came from the Turkish and Cyprus operations, but few Polly Peck executives understood exactly how they continued to rise steadily.
• Bank mandates allowed Nadir and his directors to make payments on the strength of a single signature, a highly unusual facility for the heads of a public company to have.
• In 1989, Nadir did the deal that should have secured his status as a major international player, when he raised £577 million to buy Del Monte.

Earlier this year, Mr Nadir’s legal team indicated that he was now willing to return to the UK to face a fair trial, on the proviso that he was granted bail.

The Serious Fraud Office agreed not to impose bail in return for stringent conditions.

As he arrived at his home in Mayfair, Mr Nadir told a pack of reporters: “I’m delighted to be here. It’s been a long time and I’ve missed the country.”

He insisted his return was all about “Justice,” but hoped “past mistakes” would not count against him, adding: “I ask for a guarantee to the Turkish government that I will be treated like every other innocent person until the case was over.

“I hope that the past mistakes will not continue any longer.”

Mr Nadir insisted he was innocent, adding: “Absolutely… the reason I am here entirely.”

He was then asked if he had any regrets about leaving the country in the first place.

He replied: “Absolutely not. What I regret was the behaviour that I was faced with because if I had not gone I don’t think I would be alive.”

Lord Parkinson, Transport Secretary 1989-90, told Channel 4 News: “He was regarded as a brilliant young businessman. So I think it came as a shock for a lot of people, including me, when it suddenly was alleged that the whole thing was built on sand. The amazing thing to me is that he wants to come back and that he’s confident he can win his case.”

Legal ‘environment’ now right
Earlier, Mr Nadir said he believed the legal “environment” was right for him to return.

He told Radio 4’s Today programme: “I’m hoping to get a fair trial, if this matter goes to trial, obviously.

“But that was not the case in the past. I spent from 1990 to 1993, almost December of 93, battling with immense injustice and tremendous abuse of power in Britain.

“My health had deteriorated and at that point I felt that, to save my life, I had to come to recuperate … I have been asking since then for the environment to be as it is today.”

He claimed he had already proved his “innocence to the authorities without doubt but nobody took any notice at that time”.

Mr Nadir added there was “no deal” over his treatment when he returns to the UK.

He said: “I have not done a deal. My lawyers have asked for me to be granted bail before I came to England and that was decided.

“There is no deal. There is only one deal and that is, I am hoping I will see for the first time some justice.”