Nadir tried to buy a knighthood: Associates of fugitive businessman tell of secret donations totalling pounds 500,000 to Conservative Party funds

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The Independent Online
ASIL NADIR made two secret donations to Conservative funds, which the party has not declared publicly, in the hope that the contributions would secure him a knighthood.

An investigation by the Independent has revealed that Nadir made payments - believed to total pounds 500,000 - between 1983 and 1985. He claims that he gave the party pounds 1.5m, but only donations worth pounds 440,000, made between 1985 and 1989, have previously come to light.

When these efforts failed to secure him a knighthood, Nadir asked one of his advisers to try to buy him the honour from the Conservative Party. If successful, the adviser, a member of Nadir's external public relations team, was to receive a fee of pounds 100,000 from the former Polly Peck chairman.

The adviser, who asked not to be named, told the Independent that in 1989, he approached Conservative Central Office, which suggested that Nadir make a donation to the Conservative Industrial Fund. 'They were very cautious. They said the money shouldn't go directly to them but to the Industrial Fund.' Nadir is said to have pledged pounds 300,000 to the fund over two years.

The disclosures will add to unease surrounding the relationship between the Tory party and Nadir. Three cabinet ministers made representations on his behalf to the Attorney General's office during the Serious Fraud office investigation into Nadir, and last week Sir Nicholas Lyell said in a Commons written answer that he had received letters on the case from seven MPs in all.

The Turkish Cypriot founder of Polly Peck fled Britain last month for Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus while on bail facing charges of theft and false accounting involving more than pounds 30m. An Old Bailey hearing today will decide who will receive the pounds 2m bail sureties paid into court by Nadir and the pounds 1.5m bond put up by his former wife and a wealthy Turkish businessman.

Tomorrow, Sir Norman Fowler, Tory party chairman, is to give evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee, investigating funding of political parties. The MPs are expected to ask him to clarify relationships between Nadir and the party.

The Independent has been told that in 1983 Nadir was introduced to Lord Tebbit, then a Cabinet minister, by a Turk, Mehmet Sakir. Mr Sakir, who was Nadir's business partner until 1986, owned a flat in the Barbican, central London, close to the then home of Lord Tebbit.

Lord Tebbit said yesterday he had no recollection of meeting either Mr Sakir or Nadir: 'I have no recollection of meeting (Nadir). It's far from impossible that I may have met him at some time because in 1983 I was Secretary of State for Employment part of the time and Secretary of State for Trade and Industry part of the time.'

Asked whether he was aware of Nadir's donations between 1983 and 1985, he said: 'I don't know whether I ever knew that he'd ever given money or not.' He stressed that he had no personal involvement in soliciting any payments: 'I have to assure you that at no time did Nadir give me money.'

A source close to Mr Sakir said Lord Tebbit was introduced by Mr Sakir to Nadir at the Polly Peck offices at 81-91 Commercial Road, east London. 'There was an introduction; that I can say to you is true,' said the source. Mr Sakir is at present travelling in central Turkey.

Nadir made two separate payments, according to close associates, to the Tory party. Each donation is said to have amounted to pounds 250,000. Unlike later donations, these were paid from his own funds in Switzerland.

A source close to Mr Sakir said: 'Asil Nadir wanted a knighthood and he didn't just make a few payments - he made substantial payments . . . . Sakir used to laugh, saying, 'As if they are going to give a Cypriot a knighthood.' He was quite realistic.'

Nadir was apparently led to believe by party officials that these payments would secure him a knighthood and was bitterly disappointed that they did not.

He sought a knighthood again in 1989. Apart from pledging money to the Tory party's Industrial Fund, he also increased his donations to charity. Margaret Thatcher wrote to the head of one charity who had recommended him for the honour saying she would give his nomination her 'full and careful consideration.'

Nadir's last donation to Tory funds was pounds 80,000 in March 1990.

Nadir yesterday issued a statement denying reports that he had 'salted away' as much as pounds 1bn from his companies, and said: 'I firmly intend to take public and legal action in the near future which will demonstrate the degree to which I have been hampered in preparing my defence.'

Quest for a knighthood, page 3

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