Polly Peck charges dropped: SFO clings to hopes of Asil Nadir's voluntary return to face trial

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The Independent Online
IF Asil Nadir, the former head of Polly Peck, fails to return to the UK voluntarily, then it is almost certain following yesterday's decision to drop all charges against his chief accountant, John Turner, that no one will stand trial over charges connected with the collapse of the company, writes John Willcock.

The SFO had planned to try Mr Nadir and Mr Turner together, since the circumstances of the charges overlapped. As Robert Owen QC, counsel for the SFO, said, 'the essence was that accounting entries were made by him (Mr Turner) to conceal thefts by Nadir'.

Polly Peck collapsed with debts of pounds 1.3bn in 1990, only months after reaching its all-time highest stock- market value of over pounds 2bn. The administrator, Touche Ross, is suing Mr Nadir for pounds 378m which it claims he has misappropriated. He is also one of the UK's biggest bankrupts, with debts of more than pounds 100m.

Once Mr Nadir had fled Britain for northern Cyprus on 5 May 1993, the Serious Fraud Office was faced with the problem of how to proceed, both against the tycoon and against his lesser-known co-defendant, Mr Turner, former company secretary of Polly Peck.

The SFO had to maintain the position then, and still maintains it after dropping all charges against Mr Turner, that it will continue to do everything in its power to secure the return of Mr Nadir, and to try him on charges of stealing pounds 30m from Polly Peck.

George Staple, director of the SFO, had to quash speculation that Mr Nadir could be tried in his absence. But yesterday's proceedings have done nothing to dampen the SFO's determination, officially at least, to achieve justice.

Mr Owen QC told the court yesterday: 'It is not possible to predict when Mr Nadir will return and it would be manifestly unjust for this matter to be held in abeyance so far as Mr Turner is concerned.'

Mr Turner's own counsel, Michael Hopmeier, said: 'I hope he may leave this court as he entered it, without a stain on his character.'