Legal spotlight returns to Polly Peck case

Forsyth charges: Lawyers for former Asil Nadir aide seeking disclosure of documents to help defence
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The Polly Peck saga returns to the British courts today when prosecution and defence lawyers are set to argue over whether more documents should be disclosed to lawyers representing Elizabeth Forsyth, a former aide of Asil Nadir.

Mrs Forsyth has been charged on two counts of handling stolen cash, worth nearly pounds 400,000, in 1989. She used to head up South Audley Management, the company that managed Mr Nadir's personal assets. She went to live in northern Cyprus after the collapse of Polly Peck but returned to face police questioning in September 1994.

The defence is seeking two sets of documents, in particular. The first relates to the SFO raid on South Audley Management, which precipitated the collapse of the Polly Peck empire. The defence wants to get hold of minutes of a meeting said to have been held before the raid, at which representatives from the SFO, the Department of Trade and Industry and the Metropolitan Police were present.

The second set of documents requested by the defence relate to internal disciplinary proceedings taken by the SFO against Lorna Harris, the former Polly Peck case-controller, who is now on secondment. Ms Harris was suspended after the Attorney-General admitted in 1993 that the SFO had mistakenly opened documents sealed by Mr Nadir's defence, and then handed them to the prosecution.

The prosecution has queried the relevance of some of the documents sought by the defence and disclosure of some material could also be objected to on the grounds that it is against the public interest.

In correspondence with the defence, Robert Wardle, the current case-controller, has argued that "it is not clear how the results of any internal disciplinary proceedings could affect an issue, or possible issue in the trial, of the indictment against Mrs Forsyth. I have consulted counsel who shares this view. If you are able to indicate what relevance it has, or may have ... then I will consider the matter further."

The SFO said yesterday that it would be inappropriate to comment on the issues ahead of today's preparatory hearing being held at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

Polly Peck collapsed in 1990 and Mrs Forsyth was first questioned by the SFO in January 1991.