Pilot who helped Nadir faces jail

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The Independent Online
A PILOT was yesterday facing a prison sentence after being convicted of helping the fugitive businessman Asil Nadir flee from British justice.

Peter Dimond, 56, arranged a flight out of Britain in 1993 for the tycoon who was facing charges of theft and false accounting following the collapse of his pounds 1.3bn Polly Peck empire three years earlier.

The pair flew to Northern Cyprus, beyond the reach of British jurisdiction, and toasted Nadir's escape with champagne and caviar.

Dimond was yesterday remanded on bail for pre-sentence reports after he was convicted of doing acts tending or intending to pervert the course of justice between January and May 1993. He had denied the charge and showed no emotion when the jury announced their verdict after five hours of deliberations.

Afterwards, the Serious Fraud Office confirmed that it still intended to proceed against Nadir if he ever returns to British jurisdiction.

The court heard that it was Dimond's sense of "fair play" which led him to help Nadir, whose pounds 3m bail terms prevented him from leaving the country. The businessman told Dimond that he was being hounded by the Serious Fraud Office and the administrators to the trustees appointed to Polly Peck.

Nadir told the pilot of his arrest, that his mail was being intercepted, and of the raids on his office and home which resulted in his documents being seized. The only way to clear his name would be to get to Northern Cyprus to collect his files so that he could prepare his defence, he said.

Dimond, who did not know Nadir very well, listened intently as he recounted his troubles in the garden of his London home. They spoke outside because Nadir was afraid of being bugged.

He said he believed Nadir had been unfairly treated by the British authorities and needed time to prepare his case. "I always thought it would be sorted. I never doubted his integrity," he told the court.

Julian Bevan, QC, prosecuting, told the court that Dimond did not know Nadir well, but had said he believed he would return to this Britain and stand trial.

Dimond, a Barnardo's boy, had always wanted to be a pilot but he had been rejected by the RAF. He managed to obtain a flying licence, but made his living buying and selling cars.

By the early 1990s, the court heard, he was a small businessman feeling the effects of the recession. His wife, Hopie, had become friendly with Nadir's mistress Lesley Ellwood and the couples occasionally socialised.

Dimond said he saw the change which had come over the tycoon after the Polly Peck collapse. He allegedly thought Nadir had been "degraded to the point of desperation."

Mr Bevan added that Dimond "saw Nadir as a man who had been unfairly treated, a shadow of his former self who walked with a stick and had a grey pallor - not a man he had known before."

He told officers: "I am a reasonable fair-minded person. I felt he was not getting the opportunity to present a defence.

"I know in my own life, if that happened to me, I would want to back off and go somewhere where I could have peace and quiet, and put my house in order."

On 4 May 1993 Nadir, disguised in a hat and sunglasses, was flown out from Compton Abbas airfield. The pilot was not told the identity of his passenger and did not recognise him in his disguise.

Dimond accompanied him - mainly to reassure the businessman, who was more used to travelling in luxury jets and was nervous about the tiny plane.

Dimond was given pounds 300 in pounds 50 notes for the hire of the plane, and an extra pounds 100 for petrol money for himself.

They first flew to Beauvais, near Paris, and then in a jet, via Vienna and Istanbul, to Northern Cyprus where Nadir remains to this day.

Dimond said he had not known that a plane would be waiting for Nadir in Beauvais, but decided to accompany him anyway.

He arrived without so much as a toothbrush, but after arriving in northern Cyprus, he "soon learned of the uproar and realised that if he was to return, he was going to face trouble."

He stayed for five years before leaving last January. He was arrested in Haverfordwest, in Wales, after agreeing to drive a Range Rover to Dublin. He told police: "I am the person who flew Asil Nadir out of the country. I have no regrets for doing this."

But the man who had only ever wanted to fly planes was finally brought down by his own ambition. Nadir talked about restoring his fortunes and said that when he got his charter airline off the ground there could be a job for Dimond.

Instead Dimond ended up spending five years in exile before returning to face a prison sentence.

Polly Peck's rise and fall

1963: Asil Nadir comes to London and works in the family clothing business in the East End of London.

1970s: He buys a cash and carry clothing business, Wearwell, which he floats on the stock market, and takes a stake in ailing clothing firm Polly Peck.

1981 and 1983: Polly Peck wins Queen's Awards for Exports

1989: Nadir raises pounds 557m to buy Del Monte, making Polly Peck the world's third largest fruit distributor.

1990: Polly Peck expands into an electronics, fresh fruit and leisure empire worth pounds 2bn and becomes the first western company to buy a Japanese corporation, the Sansui electrical group. But confidence in his empire declines when Nadir changes his mind about taking the company private.

September 1990: Confidence falls further after a raid by the Serious Fraud Office on a company linked to Nadir wiping pounds 1bn off Polly Peck shares overnight.

October 1990: Polly Peck calls in administrators to run the group as a going concern despite debts of pounds 1.3bn.

December1990: Nadir is arrested at Heathrow and charged with stealing more than pounds 150m from the company.

1993: Nadir skips bails and flees to Northern Cyprus.