23 Aug 2012

Nadir sentenced to 10 years in prison

Former fugitive tycoon Asil Nadir has been sentenced to 10 years in jail for stealing almost £30m from his Polly Peck business empire.

Asil Nadir came back to the UK in August 2010 (pic: Reuters)

The company collapsed owing £550m in 1990 and Nadir went on the run for 17 years.

He returned to Britain in 2010 confident he would be cleared but an Old Bailey jury this week found him guilty of stealing £28.6m, the equivalent of £61.8m today.

Nadir, 71, was jailed for the 10 charges of theft which took place between 1987 and 1990.

Speaking outside court Nur Nadir, who is 43 years her husband’s junior, said her husband was a “business genius.”

She said: ‘My husband is innocent and having put our faith in the British justice system we will continue in our efforts to rectify the wrongs.

Sentencing, Mr Justice Holroyde said: “You remained absent from this country for 17 years, and so delayed for nearly two decades the day of reckoning which has finally arrived.”

The judge said Nadir blamed everyone except himself for his downfall.

Used £1m to pay tax bill

He used stolen money to fund an already extravagant lifestyle, he said. It had gone on various businesses and properties from which he had profited – and he even used £1m to pay a tax bill.

He added: “You have shown not the slightest remorse.

“Your sole concern throughout has been to avoid any acceptance of your responsibility.”

Nadir was told he would serve half his sentence before being released on parole.

The judge said he had reduced the sentence he would have passed by two years to take into account Nadir being tagged, his voluntary return and previous good character.

After being sentenced, Nadir turned to wife Nur, smiled and said goodbye.

The sentencing followed the eruption of a political row erupted over donations to the Tories.

The Conservative Party rejected calls to repay £440,000 in donations from Nadir’s Polly Peck business empire more than 20 years ago, saying in a statement there was “no evidence” that the money donated had been stolen.

‘Return Tory donations’

Labour MP Simon Danczuk called on the Tories to honour a promise made by former prime minister Sir John Major to return donations if the money was “dishonestly obtained and dishonestly donated”.

Nadir was one of the Tories’ biggest benefactors in the Margaret Thatcher era.

Polly Peck was one of the most successful companies of its time and following its collapse Nadir was charged with theft but fled to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus to avoid trial in May 1993.

His friend Michael Mates, a minister in the Major government, had to resign after it was discovered that he gave Nadir a watch inscribed “Don’t let the buggers get you down”.

Nadir returned voluntarily in August 2010 vowing to clear his name. He blamed the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) for orchestrating his downfall and said he fled because he was a broken man.

Maximum of seven years for each charge

His wife, Nur, 28, said her husband would appeal the verdicts.

“A guilty man does not come back to face justice of his own accord. My husband came back voluntarily. Polly Peck was his life,” she added.

Nadir spirited abroad large amounts of cash which then disappeared into “a black hole” and have never been recovered.

Compensation claim

The prosecution told the court the thefts were part of £150m siphoned off from Polly Peck but the judge, Mr Justice Holroyde, said he could only sentence Nadir for the counts for which he had been found guilty.

Clare Whitaker, from the SFO, said a claim would be made for compensation to be awarded to the administrators of Polly Peck International.

The estimated £10m court case, including £3m SFO costs, lasted seven months.

A hearing is expected to be held next month and Nadir will have to provide details of his income and assets.

In addition to compensation, he will be liable for prosecution costs and repaying legal aid estimated at £200,000.

Stolen millions were used to secretly buy shares in Polly Peck by companies owned by Nadir to bolster its share value.

In September 1990, after Nadir’s South Audley Management company was raided by the SFO, the company’s shares went into free-fall.