Fugitive tycoon says he’s returning to UK
LONDON—A tycoon who fled Britain almost two decades ago following the spectacular collapse of his business empire is returning to London to face charges of fraud, officials said Thursday.
Asil Nadir told British media he was returning to write the final chapter of a boom-and-bust story that tarnished the reputation of the Conservative Party—to which he was a major donor—and made him a fugitive from British justice for 17 years.
Speaking from a nearly empty passenger jet in Turkey, where was stopping on his way back to London, Nadir told Sky News television that he wanted to “go back and hopefully get a closure to this sad affair.”
Nadir, 69, never faced the prospect of being taken back to Britain by force: The self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus isn’t recognized by Britain and has no extradition treaty with the U.K.
Britain’s Serious Fraud Office said it had worked out bail conditions with Nadir’s lawyers—including a 250,000 pound (approximately $390,000) surety, a ban on travel and the requirement that he hand over his passport and other travel documents.
The office said that Nadir would also be fitted with an electronic monitoring device and barred from coming within the vicinity of an airport, seaport, or London’s St. Pancras station, the terminus of Eurostar trains from Paris.
Asked why he was giving up a comfortable life in northern Cyprus with his 26-year-old wife to face trial, Nadir told Sky that he was eager to see justice done.
“My innocence is sufficient security for me,” he said. Nadir, the son of a wealthy Cypriot, came to England in the 1960s and set up a east London clothing company which grew into an international conglomerate.
In 1980, he took control of the ailing British textile company Polly Peck and used the firm as his stock market vehicle for expansion. The company’s stock price multiplied as Nadir went on an acquisitions binge, snapping up Del Monte’s fresh fruit operations and Japan’s Sansui Electric Co.
Nadir became one of Britain’s richest people in the process, although his fortune crumpled when his company’s stock collapsed after investigators began probing irregularities in Nadir family trusts.
Nadir denied charges he had stolen from his company to line his pockets, insisting he was the victim of a Greek-inspired political conspiracy. His company still filed for bankruptcy protection in late 1990, hundreds of millions of pounds (dollars) in debt.
Nadir fled the country in May of 1993, four months before he was scheduled to face trial, escaping to France in a private jet before making his way back to northern Cyprus.
The scandal over Polly Peck’s collapse was one in a series of British business debacles that focused attention on the financial freewheeling and corporate greed of the 1980s. Others included the 1991 BCCI banking scandal and the demise of Maxwell media empire.
The scandal also had serious repercussions for the Conservative Party when its links to Nadir were revealed. Michael Mates, an aide to then-Prime Minister John Major, was forced to resign after it was shown he’d given the tycoon a watch inscribed with a profane reference to his accusers.
Speaking to Sky, Nadir declined to say whether he would support the Conservative Party in the future.
“We’ve got a little injustice to sort out first,” he said.
Any possible trial is expected to be complex. A spokesman for the Serious Fraud Office said that while the case was some 20 years old and that the files had since been consigned to the archive, some of those involved in the initial investigation would be tapped to provide “direct, hands-on knowledge.”
Nadir is scheduled to appear at London’s Central Criminal Court on Sept. 3 for an initial hearing.
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