Asil Nadir jailed for 10 years for Polly Peck thefts

Asil Nadir Asil Nadir fled Britain in 1993 but returned in a vain bid to clear his name

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Former fugitive Asil Nadir has been jailed for 10 years for the theft of nearly £29m ($46m) from his Polly Peck empire more than 20 years ago.

Nadir, 71, stole from Polly Peck International, a major UK conglomerate until 1990 when it collapsed after a Serious Fraud Office investigation.

He fled the UK in 1993 while awaiting trial and went to northern Cyprus but returned in 2010.

A statement issued on behalf of Nadir said he was "most disappointed".

Bark & Co solicitors said: "He maintains that he is totally innocent of all charges and will be lodging an appeal."

Outside the Old Bailey, Nadir's wife, Nur, also said: "My husband is innocent."

She added: "Having great faith in the British legal justice system we will continue with our efforts to rectify the wrongs."

Why did Asil Nadir return when he was safe from extradition, with a lifestyle that would be the envy of many?

The fact is that he was saddled with the reputation of a fugitive-alleged-fraudster.

When you're 71 with a heart condition, that must play on your mind.

Nadir had enough charisma to fill every court at the Old Bailey.

Sometimes he would sing a sweet Turkish song to his wife, bold as brass, in the middle of the highest criminal court in the land.

He is also exceptionally clever. So clever in fact, that he convinced himself that he could outwit the Serious Fraud Office and its thousands of pages of evidence.

A few weeks ago, I asked him what he would do if he were cleared.

"When I am cleared," he replied, slightly annoyed I doubted him, "I will go and run northern Cyprus." We'll never know if he was joking.

The seven-month trial, which ended on Wednesday, saw Nadir convicted of 10 of the sample charges he faced and acquitted of three.

Nadir was given five years' imprisonment for seven thefts committed between August 1987 and June 1989 and five years for three offences which took place between December 1989 and August 1990.

Passing sentence, Mr Justice Holroyde said Nadir had continued to steal from PPI after the company's accounts were queried by auditors.

The judge said the two sets of sentences would therefore run consecutive to each other "to mark your persistence in offending repeatedly over a lengthy period".

He said Nadir would be eligible for release after serving half his sentence.

After sentencing, Nadir thanked the judge and BBC home affairs correspondent Dominic Casciani said the tycoon had been "unfailingly polite" throughout the trial.

Our correspondent said it was unclear what had happened to the stolen money and there will be a further court hearing next month in an attempt to confirm Nadir's assets and agree compensation for PPI creditors.

In his sentencing remarks, the judge said Nadir had "outstanding business skills" and brought employment and financial benefit to many people around the world.

But Mr Justice Holroyde said: "You were a wealthy man who stole out of pure greed."

The judge said Nadir blamed everyone but himself - especially the Serious Fraud Office - when PPI collapsed, and had failed to show any remorse since returning to Britain.

Asil Nadir's wife Nur: "My husband is a warm and wonderful man"

He said: "The company's success was in many ways your success. But the company's money was not your money. You knew that. You nonetheless helped yourself to it and committed theft on a grand scale."

Earlier his lawyer, Philip Hackett QC, said that Nadir had coronary heart disease and high blood pressure.

But the judge said Nadir's ill health was a matter for the prison service and not a reason to reduce his sentence although he had reduced the term he would have passed by two years to take into account the fact that the tycoon voluntarily returned and was of previous good character.

Seven of the 10 jurors - two stood down during the trial because of illness - returned to hear Nadir being sentenced and Nur, 28, sat by herself near the dock.

Share price collapse

The SFO's Clare Whitaker said a claim would be made for compensation from Nadir to the administrators of PPI. This will be decided at a hearing on 27 September.

A judge will also decide if Nadir should be ordered to pay prosecution and legal aid costs.

A Financial Circumstances Order requires him to provide details of his finances and assets before the hearing.

PPI began as a small fashion company but expanded into the food, leisure and electronics industries under Nadir's ownership, growing into a business empire with more than 200 subsidiaries worldwide.

In 1989 PPI bought the fresh fruit giant Del Monte for $875m.

Image of graphic explaining Asil Nadir case

By 1990 it was on the FTSE 100 index and was one of the stock exchange's best performing companies but the share price collapsed after the Serious Fraud Office raided PPI's offices.

Thousands of British investors lost money when the company crashed.

After fleeing the UK, Nadir remained a fugitive in northern Cyprus until two years ago. The Turkish-controlled territory is not recognised as a state and has no extradition treaty with the UK.

Nadir has been convicted of stealing:

  • £5.15m from PPI for the purchase of shares to prop up the company in August 1987
  • £5m from PPI to buy shares in the Gunaydin newspaper group in Turkey in July 1988
  • £1.3m from PPI to buy shares and help fund his expenses including the purchase of a Leicestershire country estate and farm in November 1988
  • $500,000 from PPI to buy shares in an educational video company in March 1989
  • £2.6m from PPI to pay for shares in travel company Noble Raredon in March 1989
  • £4m from PPI to invest in his investment trust which held shares in PPI in June 1989
  • £1.3m from PPI to pay for PPI shares in June 1989
  • £1m from PPI to pay for antiques in December 1989
  • £3.25m from PPI in March 1990 and placing it in 19 different end destinations including propery interests
  • £5m from PPI for various uses including his relatives in August 1990
Asil Nadir in 1993 after his return to Cyprus Nadir spent 17 years as a fugitive in Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus

Nadir, a UK citizen born in northern Cyprus, claimed during his trial that his friends and relatives paid Turkish lire in cash into bank accounts in on the island to offset the money which had been taken out.

The director of the SFO, David Green, said on Wednesday: "The conviction of Asil Nadir of theft on a grand scale from a public company 19 years after he fled the jurisdiction is a remarkable achievement."

In 1993 Michael Mates, then a Conservative minister and friend of the businessman, attacked the SFO's handling of the case in a speech in the Commons.

Mr Mates, who is now 78, quit his junior minister job in the Northern Ireland Office in 1993 after it emerged he had bought Nadir a watch inscribed: "Don't let the buggers get you down."

Meanwhile, the Conservative Party has rejected calls to repay donations made by PPI in the 1990s.

A Labour MP had called for the party to pay back the money but the Tories says there is no evidence to suggest the money was stolen and the cash had come from a publicly owned company not Nadir personally.

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