Nadir plans comeback to the UK

Fugitive tycoon's solicitor prepares for High Court battle
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LAWYERS acting for Asil Nadir are pressing ahead with legal moves that could pave the way for the fugitive Polly Peck tycoon to return to Britain later this year as a free man.

Peter Krivinskas, the Manchester solicitor representing Mr Nadir, plans to argue in the High Court in March that his client would not receive a fair hearing in this country because of adverse pre-trial publicity.

He is also preparing abuse-of-process papers alleging the improper disclosure of defence documents, in an attempt to win a stay of proceedings against Mr Nadir.

"He would love to come back once we have a stay of criminal proceedings," said Mr Krivinskas, who says he is in daily contact with his client. "He still loves England."

The prospect, however remote, of Mr Nadir coming back to the UK without facing prosecution over the pounds 2bn collapse of his fruit-to-electronics empire is bound to embarrass the Serious Fraud Office following a series of high-profile failures to secure convictions in fraud cases.

His return would also be politically awkward for the Conservative Party in the run-up to the next general election. He was a generous donor to Tory funds and enjoyed considerable support from a group of more than 100 MPs. The most prominent of these was Michael Mates, who was forced to resign as Northern Ireland minister in 1993 over his business links with Mr Nadir.

Mr Nadir was made personally bankrupt following Polly Peck's collapse in 1990 and the SFO subsequently brought fraud and theft charges against him totalling pounds 30m. In 1993 he fled to the breakaway northern Cyprus, which is not recognised by the international community and has no extradition treaties with the UK.

The tycoon enjoys government support in the self-styled Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and lives there quite openly. A warrant is still outstanding in the UK for his arrest.

Mr Krivinskas is set to try for a stay of proceedings against Mr Nadir once the trial of one of the tycoon's close associates at Polly Peck is concluded. Elizabeth Forsyth is due to stand trial on 12 February charged on two counts of handling stolen cash worth nearly pounds 400,000.

Mrs Forsyth, who denies the charges, returned voluntarily to the UK following Mr Nadir's flight in 1993 to provide evidence to the SFO.

In a separate case, a House of Lords ruling is still awaited on whether Mr Nadir actually jumped bail of pounds 3.5m when he fled Britain. Judgment was reserved last month in an appeal concerning pounds 650,000 of bail funds lodged by an associate of Mr Nadir.

If Mr Krivinskas succeeds in getting the charges against Mr Nadir dropped, his client will be free to sue the SFO and others for damages totalling millions of pounds.

The SFO has stressed since Mr Nadir's flight that the charges still stand, and it is ready to hold a trial if or when he returns to the UK.

James O'Donoghue, a spokesman for the Serious Fraud Office, said: "Mr Nadir remains a fugitive from justice. A warrant for his arrest is outstanding and he would face prosecution upon his return."