'I will rebuild Polly Peck': Asil Nadir talks exclusively to Hugh Pope about his plans to foil the liquidators, clear his name and fight his way back to mercantile glory


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The Independent Online

ASIL NADIR, the fugitive financier, is planning to rebuild his international business empire using companies and assets salvaged from under the noses of administrators to his bankrupt trading group, Polly Peck.

In a long, rambling and sometimes incoherent interview with the Independent on Sunday at his home in Lapta, northern Cyprus, Mr Nadir dismissed the collapse of Polly Peck as 'a very sad hiccup' prompted by the British legal system, and pledged that he would rebuild it.

Managers of Polly Peck businesses in northern Cyprus are already treating Mr Nadir as if he were the chief executive and proprietor. Mr Nadir is planning to fly to Turkey shortly to reclaim former Polly Peck businesses there too.

For Mr Nadir, deluded or not, nothing is over yet. The former chairman of Polly Peck International Plc is convinced he can still win back the brain-child he turned into the most successful London company of the 1980s, despite the sale of its best units, bankruptcy and his dramatic flight from Britain almost three weeks ago while facing charges of theft and false accounting.

'It was a very sad hiccup,' said Mr Nadir, settling down at the head of a long table beneath the tall arches of his verdant Cypriot courtyard. Breakfast served by a gaunt butler and young waiter conjured up the many worlds he lives in: Cypriot white cheese and olives, tea from Lipton and plates of Cartier china.

'I am talking about the re-creation (of Polly Peck),' he said. 'I am going to clear my name faster than you all think, and ensure that those Polly Peck shareholders get compensated, provided they behave intelligently themselves and start seeking their rights.'

Avoiding any discussion of detail, Mr Nadir talked of forming a committee to represent the 25,000 shareholders in Polly Peck, whom he leads with a 26 per cent stake. 'Just because something is sold it is not the end of the matter,' he said. 'You will have to trust my intelligence, my determination and my ability to succeed. Time will show if this was an obsession or a reality.'

Mr Nadir did not rule out legal challenges to sales of prize businesses such as the Del Monte fruit company and the Sansui electronics manufacturers in Japan, based on what he believes will be shown to be his unjust treatment in Britain.

London may prove beyond his initial reach, but success is possible with such actions in Cyprus and Turkey, where Polly Peck had many assets and most of its profits. Mr Nadir is already back in a business suit and most days he goes to Polly Peck's offices in northern Cyprus. He has taken charge of operations in citrus exports, packaging and two hotels, as well as personal assets including the island's biggest newspaper, a bank and his sister's holiday village.

A delegation of fruit farmers arrived to see Mr Nadir during our interview, bearing gifts of flowers and a sack of oranges. There were welcoming hugs and kisses mixed with traces of awe, caution and fear, the stance many islanders adopt when talking about the return of a man who has made a habit of hiring ex-policemen as his aides.

Polly Peck managers in northern Cyprus do not contest the authority of Mr Nadir, who never lost his directors' seats here during his troubles in Britain. 'He's like a chief executive,' said the chief of the hotel operations, Turker Vehbi. 'This may not be 100 per cent legal, but after all that happened, it's not surprising.'

The local lawyer acting for Polly Peck administrators in London, Orhan Bilgehan, said nothing could stop Mr Nadir. North Cypriot court injunctions already block administrators' access to the rebel companies. When the administrators tried to take over one of the hotels last year, witnesses said Mr Nadir's hotel staff physically opposed them, with the tacit support of the police.

Ambitious as ever, Mr Nadir says his campaign will start from Cyprus, go on to Turkey - which he believes will not extradite him to Britain - and from there to the newly independent Turkic republics of the former Soviet Union and beyond.

'I don't intend to let the Pacific region go. Don't forget the current communications in the world today. You can actually conduct board meetings from wherever you are; I could do it from here,' he said.

Mr Nadir is already burning the international telephone wires with calls and says many businessmen have called in to show their support - as well as other Britons aggrieved by the judicial system. But it is hard to judge his real prospects amid the birdsong, the almond trees, the jasmine and luxuriant purple of the bougainvillaea.

Having given up smoking six months ago, after which he gained several pounds, Mr Nadir, 52, once again smokes much more than he eats. He still has slicked-back hair and the old nervous twitch of the nose, at times making him seem like a big sleek cat, the panther that was the favourite decorative motif of his old office in London.

Despite 30 years in Britain, his English is still idiosyncratic, a north Cypriot accent overlaid with upper-class drawl and bankers' talk of 'interesting projects' and 'exciting prospects'.

Mr Nadir says his main aim in life is to clear his name in Britain, which he still refers to as 'here' or 'this country'. He sees the British legal system as being dominated by 'unethical gangsters'.

Outside his village house, trees are being cut down round the garden wall and Cypriot police commandos stand guard. What does he fear on this apparently idyllic, soft Mediterranean morning? 'An attack by the SAS . . . led by Lord Mackay,' he only half-jokes, letting loose another blazing smile before the old wooden door shuts him back into his world again.

(Photograph omitted)