Independent wins lifting of Nadir court report ban

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The Independent Online
THE Serious Fraud Office yesterday apologised to the High Court judge involved in the case of the fugitive tycoon Asil Nadir for the manner in which questions were raised as to whether he should remain in charge of the trial.

The SFO said that allegations that Mr Justice Tucker was involved in a plot with Nadir to pervert the course of justice were 'spurious and groundless'.

The judge replied: 'I've known from the start that this is arrant and outrageous nonsense . . . I was very offended and hurt.' He ruled that reporting restrictions covering a hearing last November in which details of the allegations first emerged should be lifted after an application by Newspaper Publishing plc, owner of the Independent.

The transcripts of this hearing, and others which were conducted in camera, reveal one of the most extraordinary legal challenges to the authority of a sitting judge in recent legal history. They also show that some of the most senior law officers in Britain were privy to details of the police investigation into the alleged conspiracy.

In the transcripts, counsel for the Serious Fraud Office tells the judge during one hearing: 'My Lord, may I explain that it is a matter on which the director of the SFO has consulted the Attorney General from the outset.' Mr Justice Tucker invited the Attorney General to attend the court yesterday, but he sent a representative instead.

David Calvert-Smith, representing the SFO, said: 'We apologise deeply for the offence your Lordship felt, but we were attempting to act in the very best interests of the trial.' The judge was told by the SFO last November that he could be interviewed by police investigating an alleged conspiracy by Nadir to bribe him with pounds 3.5m.

According to the transcripts, this statement was contradicted by the policeman leading the investigation, who stated he had no plans to interview the judge.

Nadir was facing charges of false accounting and theft connected with his management of Polly Peck. He jumped bail last May, and now lives in northern Cyprus.

At a hearing in March, Mr Justice Tucker was told of allegations that he was a party to the plot, as were Anthony Scrivener QC, defence counsel for Nadir, and Wyn Jones, an assistant commissioner at Scotland Yard.

Court transcripts, page 9