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Business Comment

Mark Leftly: Hubris led Nadir from his Cypriot villa to 10 years in a prison cell

Polly Peck's ex-boss could have opted to live out his life in luxury with his young wife, instead he arrogantly believed he could beat £28m theft charges

There have been plenty of duff puns going around on Asil Nadir's name. Take these two lame efforts: "This is Asil's Nadir" and "Asil has reached his Nadir". Ho-ho.

Pretty poor stuff, but it shows just how entertaining people have found the former Polly Peck International tycoon's fall, which on Thursday culminated in a 10-year jail sentence on 10 counts of theft totalling £28.6m.

Remarkably, it has taken more than two decades for Nadir to be imprisoned since Polly Peck collapsed with debts of £1.3bn and for 17 years of that time he was on the run. Or, more accurately, he was living a life of luxury off the coast of Northern Cyprus without fear of ever being tried for stealing millions of pounds from Polly Peck.

What has caused much laughter is that Nadir voluntarily came back in 2010, leaving his £3m villa, swimming pool and servants to prove his innocence rather than continue "trying to absorb this injustice" of what he argued were false allegations. He made similar claims in 2003, but then made what was clearly the sensible decision of staying put.

As he munched on his home-made sandwiches wrapped in foil last week, Nadir must have wondered why he had decided to swap his life of Davidoff cigars, Veuve Clicquot champagne and medallions of steak for the prospect of a jail sentence.

Just maybe, though, he didn't think that. Maybe he thought that whatever he said other people would naturally believe, be it due to a deluded perception of his own intellect, charisma or gravitas.

We all know the type: the boss who comes into the office after midday, shouts "good morning" at the top of their voice, thinking that those around them would believe it was closer to 9am just because they had said black was white. Think Tony Blair and the accounts of how he was so convinced of his own powers of persuasion, that he could charm anyone into following him.

Those bosses usually do have the presence that you will forgive and forget their deficiencies or even just accept whatever they say. Similarly, Blair was a master at taking people along with him, be it pushing through the Irish peace process or getting the US onside over the Kosovo conflict.

Eventually, though, others see through the brilliance of their personality that is simply clouding poorer truths. That's what I think drove Nadir to return: not the need to take the weight of implied guilt off his shoulders, but the need to be totally in command, even of other people's views.

It's easy to spot this trait in many a company chief executive. In fairness, that slightly sociopathic tendency, a need to prove their vision is the right vision, is probably necessary among those wanting to lead huge numbers of people.

But Nadir went a lot further, almost certainly due to a self-belief that can only have hardened when he transformed Polly Peck from a struggling textile firm in the late 1970s into a £2bn-valued fruit-to-fashion behemoth by 1989. Margaret Thatcher wrote Nadir a note thanking him for his support in the 1987 general election, while his success brought with it a personal jet, a fleet of luxury cars and a herd of pedigree beef cattle.

Even in Cyprus he cut a respected, authoritative figure, a true hero for his fellow Turkish Cypriots to follow. Since his return – and don't forget he arrived back in 1993 to be welcomed by kisses and hugs from an MP of the then-ruling party – Nadir and his family have focused on building up Kibris Media Group, which counts a newspaper and a TV station among its assets.

Nadir also met Nur, his second wife. Because of an age gap of more than 40 years, it has been easy to sneer of the reasons why such a glamorous woman would agree to marry a balding sexagenarian just 25 days after starting work at one of his companies.

However, few doubt Nur's devotion to Nadir. Before returning to the UK, Nadir even spoke of starting another family with her – he already has four children by his first wife and a former mistress.

Nadir was able to impress and woo Nur, which for many a man of his age would have been more than enough. Instead, he needed to go further and prove that he could still persuade the British courts that black was indeed white.

Which is why Nadir now faces rotting in jail until his early eighties, and is also why the young woman who loves him so much is the final victim in the whole Polly Peck affair.