Nadir flight stalls 19m pounds of sell-offs

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The Independent Online
MICHAEL JORDAN, joint administrator of Polly Peck International, has flown to Istanbul in an attempt to save disposals worth dollars 30m ( pounds 19m) that have been threatened by Asil Nadir's flight to Northern Cyprus, writes Jason Nisse.

The two deals - one to sell Polly Peck's shareholding in Meyna, a fruit company based in both Turkey and Northern Cyprus, the other to sell the Cypriot pharmaceutical group ICP - have been put on hold after their potential Turkish buyers pulled out at the last minute.

The buyers said that they were unsettled by the uncertainty caused by Nadir's dramatic move on Tuesday night to skip bail and return to Northern Cyprus, where he was welcomed as a returning hero, rather than a fugitive from justice.

Mr Jordan and his partner at Coopers & Lybrand, Richard Stone, were hoping to announce the deals at a Polly Peck creditors' meeting on Tuesday.

A source at the accountancy firm said: 'The Meyna deal was so close it was as if the ink was drying on the contract.'

The accountants are hoping that Nadir may be able to give them some assistance - which he said he would do, although on Friday he accused them of being in league with the Serious Fraud Office in trying to oppress him and prevent him from having a fair trial. 'The real issue is how what Nadir does in Northern Cyprus will affect the perception of potential buyers for the assets out there,' said a spokesman at Coopers.

The hold-up, and possible collapse, of the deals will be a bitter blow as the administrators are already facing intense pressure from creditors angry at the meagre returns on Polly Peck's pounds 1.3bn of debt. Predictions of a payout of 20p in the pound have been scaled back, and Polly Peck's debt is currently trading in the secondary debt market at less than 2p in the pound - only the national debts of Liberia and Sudan trade at lower levels.

Creditors are expected to question both the role of Coopers, which is in charge of finding and selling assets, and that of the Touche Ross team led by Christopher Morris, which is in charge of the legal actions taken on behalf of the creditors.

Coopers has faced criticism from creditors who believe it has sold some assets too cheaply. Some creditors have complained that Del Monte Fresh Fruits, which was sold to a Mexican consortium for dollars 499m ( pounds 320m), went too cheaply, and the Independent on Sunday reported last year that Coopers accepted, then turned down, a higher bid than it finally accepted for the Sheraton Voyager hotel in Antalya, Turkey, because of uncertainties about the bidder.

However, Coopers will not face the brunt of the criticism. Some creditors are saying that Touche Ross should stand down as administrators after seeing little return from the pounds 20m it has spent on legal actions against Nadir, his mother, three Cypriot banks including the Central Bank of Northern Cyprus, and Citibank.

(Photograph omitted)