Nadir: 'I gave Tories pounds 1m'

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Asil Nadir, the fugitive tycoon who once controlled one of Britain's biggest companies, has revealed he has given the Con- servative Party more than pounds 1m.

The businessman, who three years ago this weekend fled Britain while facing charges of theft and false accounting, built up his firm, Polly Peck International, into a multinational concern worth pounds 2.2bn before its crash in 1991.

Now the former Tory party favourite has turned on his old friends with a series of damning accusations and reopened the controversy over his donations to the party. It follows the jailing nine days ago of his senior aide at Polly Peck, Elizabeth Forsyth, who was sentenced to five years in prison for handling stolen company money.

"If it is believed that Elizabeth was guilty of handling stolen money, then the Conservative party should return my donations," Mr Nadir said. "The money for all transactions came from the same source.

"I believe that she is innocent, but the law says that she handled stolen cash, and if that's really the case and the Government believes it to be so, the Conservative party should hand back my money right now."

Mr Nadir, speaking from his extradition-free haven in northern Cyprus, expressed bitterness towards the prominent politicians who took his money and then dropped him.

"As soon as my company was challenged by the Serious Fraud Office it was as though the hierarchy of the Conservative Party had suddenly contracted collective amnesia," he said. In the past it has been admitted by Conservative Central Office that Nadir had contributed only pounds 440,000 to the Tory party war chest.

Yesterday in an interview in his office in Nicosia, Mr Nadirchallenged the Government to back his attempt to clear his name.

"I gave money regularly over a period of five years. There were so many donations that the final total is almost certainly in excess of pounds 1m," said the Cyprus-born entrepreneur.

Mr Nadir claimed that his payments were channelled through various routes, some of which were certainly not logged by Conservative Central Office.

"I gave the money because I believed in the system. I now realise that was a false belief. The Tories were constantly pestering me for money. I was donating on average pounds 50,000 a time about four times a year. They were always after more.

"In return I knew I could have had a knighthood. That was of no interest to me but I was flattered to be consulted on a series of confidential and sensitive policy issues. I even vetted one of Margaret Thatcher's speeches and gave advice to Kenneth Baker on how to handle the poll tax issue."

In November 1989 the then chairman of the Conservative Industrial Fund, Sir Peter Blaker, wrote to Mr Nadir praising his generosity: "Your munificent support has been an essential ingredient of the party's income in recent years," said Sir Peter, who went on to urge Mr Nadir to donate still more money.

Mr Nadir said: "When the chips were down my support for the Conservative Party counted for nothing. Alistair McAlpine, the party treasurer, told the press that he had only met me once before despite the fact that he had become something of a family friend."

The only senior Tories to have stood by the fallen millionaire, he said, were the former Northern Ireland security minister Michael Mates and deputy prime minister Michael Heseltine. "Michael Heseltine was very supportive. He was told about the difficulties I was experiencing by Michael Mates and he appeared to do all he could to support me."

In 1993 Mr Heseltine flew to Venice to visit Lord McAlpine. "They had a terrible row," said Mr Nadir. "I know this because my ex-wife, Aysegul, was a guest of Lord McAlpine's at the time and she heard raised voices from an adjoining room. Lord McAlpine had just told the press I was a sleazy little crook and Michael wanted him to stop attacking me. I believe Michael knew that the Conservative Party felt vulnerable as to the way they raised their funds."

The parliamentary select committee investigating party funding was told by the Conservative Party chairman, Sir Norman Fowler, that if donations to party funds were proved to be stolen, they would be returned.

"I don't necessarily want my money back," said Mr Nadir. "I just want to see even-handed treatment."

A Conservative Party spokeswoman said yesterday: "We do not discuss donations."