Legal aid to pay Nadir's pounds 1m bill: Major determined to reject demands for return of fugitive bankrupt's pounds 440,000 donation to party

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ASIL NADIR ran up a pounds 1m legal aid bill before skipping bail and fleeing Britain, sources close to the Serious Fraud Office prosecution confirmed last night.

Claims to be submitted shortly by his solicitor, Pannone and Partners of Manchester, and his barrister, Anthony Scrivener QC, the former chairman of the Bar Council, will be in the region of seven figures and will be met by the taxpayer.

The revelation comes two days after the High Court ruled that the Lord Chancellor, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, had not acted unlawfully in imposing stringent cuts on the provision of legal aid, denying access to up to 14 million people.

Nadir, the former chairman of Polly Peck, fled to his luxury home in northern Cyprus at the beginning of last month in the face of pounds 30m fraud charges involving his company. He had been made bankrupt in November 1991, after all his assets were frozen by a worldwide injunction secured by the administrators appointed to wind up the business.

As a bankrupt with no assets, Nadir was entitled to claim funds under the 1988 Legal Aid Act if officials at the Old Bailey considered that it was in the interests of justice for him to be backed by public money.

The Act states that such interests would be served if the defendant is facing charges that could lead to a jail sentence.

Sources close to the case said Nadir was given legal aid from September 1991 until a week after he absconded. His defence was paid for before September 1991 by 'independent third parties', according to his solicitors.

Pannone and Partners would not comment on the bill yesterday and Mr Scrivener - who has not acted for Mr Nadir since he fled the country - said he did not know how much his involvement had cost.

But he called into question the practice of freezing a person's assets, effectively forcing them on to legal aid.

Lord Mackay's cuts in legal aid provision will make the service available only to those on income support or with net earnings of up to pounds 61 a week. Old Bailey officials administering Nadir's legal aid claim refused to comment yesterday.

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