Court rules out trial without Nadir: Decision on Polly Peck chief's pounds 3m bail postponed as his donations to the Conservatives provoke more questions about political funding

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The Independent Online
ASIL NADIR is 'most unlikely' to return to the United Kingdom to face trial, his counsel told the Old Bailey yesterday. The court ruled out any possibility of Nadir being tried in his absence and postponed a decision on what should happen to his pounds 3m bail.

Anthony Scrivener QC told a pre- trial hearing that he had received Nadir's instructions on Monday. 'It is most unlikely he will be here for trial in September. I do not propose to give reasons in open court,' he said. Nadir faces 13 theft charges involving pounds 30m of Polly Peck's money and his trial was set to start on 13 September.

After hearing Mr Scrivener's latest information, both the counsel for the Serious Fraud Office and the trial judge, Mr Justice Tucker, ruled out holding a trial in Nadir's absence.

Mr Justice Tucker said: 'The reputation of British justice would not be enhanced by such a trial.' He said he had never known a trial to be held in the absence of the defendant, when a jury had not already been sworn in. The defendant would be unable to object to jury members, he said.

Robert Owen QC, prosecuting for the SFO, said: 'It would be entirely unprecedented. It would be entirely contrary to our justice system.'

There was laughter in court when Mr Owen told the judge: 'I am sure you are aware Mr Nadir fled the jurisdiction on 4 May and is now believed to be in North Cyprus.'

Mr Justice Tucker replied: 'I could scarcely not be aware of that.'

Nadir's legal aid has been withdrawn and a warrant for his re-arrest was issued last month. The fight over who ends up with Nadir's pounds 3.5m bail was postponed. Any decision on the pounds 1m surety paid by Ramadan Guney, Nadir's friend, was delayed until after Mr Guney's visit to hospital on 2 July for a decision on whether he needs a bypass operation. The pounds 500,000 stood by Nadir's former wife Ayesha will be decided at the same time.

Mr Justice Tucker also adjourned until next month the hearing on whether Nadir's pounds 2m bail should be forfeited. This is to make way for a Chancery Division case at the High Court to decide who owned the pounds 2m, before it was lodged with Nadir's solicitors in 1991.

Counsel for three different parties said they had claims on the money yesterday: the administrators to Polly Peck, Nadir's trustee in bankruptcy and Impexbank of Istanbul. A fourth, a Turkish Cypriot lawyer who was not represented yesterday, also has a claim. Whoever Chancery decides had 'beneficial ownership' of the pounds 2m will then have to convince Mr Justice Tucker the money should not be forfeited.

Nadir was originally due to be tried jointly with John Turner, the former Polly Peck company secretary, who faces charges of false accounting. The judge set a new date for Mr Turner's trial, on 4 October.

Meanwhile, Coopers & Lybrand, the administrators, continued their efforts to sell off parts of the Polly Peck empire to raise money for creditors owed a total of pounds 1.3bn. Coopers placed an advert in Tuesday's Financial Times headed 'Businesses for sale in Turkey', despite Nadir saying he would like to return to Turkey and reclaim his operations there.

Coopers offered the Meyna fruit and vegetable packing business and the Unipac cardboard box-making operation as part of their attempts to repay Polly Peck creditors, who are owed a total of pounds 1.3bn.

A Coopers spokesman admitted that Nadir's flight had complicated the sales, but added: 'Strictly speaking Mr Nadir has no connection with these companies at all. The ownership is not in dispute.'

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