After 19 years, Asil Nadir's day in court arrives in £150m fraud saga

Biggest trial of its kind begins for the Cypriot businessman behind the Polly Peck empire

Two decades after he fled the country to evade justice, Asil Nadir appeared in the dock yesterday accused of stealing almost £150m from his own business empire to finance his lavish lifestyle.

At the start of an Old Bailey trial expected to last four months, prosecutor Philip Shears, QC, began to outline the web of intrigue and transfers used by the Cypriot business tycoon to siphon off money from Polly Peck International.

Mr Nadir was due to stand trial in 1993 but escaped back to Cyprus, evading the courts until he returned to the UK in August 2010. Yesterday, the now 70-year-old businessman appeared in court clad in a dark blue suit and floral tie, accompanied by his glamorous wife, Nur, 27.

The jury heard prosecution claims that he ran the Polly Peck empire in an autocratic manner, refusing to tolerate rivals and clashing with his own board when it tried to introduce tighter financial controls or questioned the "constant outflow" of millions of pounds to Turkish and North Cypriot subsidies.

By 1990, Mr Nadir's salary had been increased to £350,000 while he had the use of a company airplane as well as five cars including two Bentleys and a Ferrari.

The businessman denies 13 charges of theft between 1987 and 1990 relating to £34m but Mr Shears explained that these were specimen counts relating to a "much bigger picture". The prosecution estimated the total to be almost five times that amount.

In his opening remarks, the QC said: "He was chairman and chief executive of Polly Peck International. He was a man who wielded very considerable power over its operations and management and that of its subsidiaries particularly in Northern Cyprus. We say he abused that power and helped himself to tens of millions of pounds of PPI's money."

Mr Shears added: "We say he caused transfers out of sums of money from the three PPI accounts which he dishonestly routed away to benefit himself, his family or associates. A simple way of expressing what happened is that he in effect stole PPI's money."

Funds, Mr Shears said, were moved within a complex structure of offshore companies with the help, the prosecution claims, of a handful of trusted directors. One such associate, group chief accountant John Turner, the prosecution said, had helped Mr Nadir with the "covert movement of money".

"Mr Turner told a witness... that Asil Nadir would ask him to collect bags full of bank notes, often totalling £100,000, from London banks and bring them back to Asil Nadir's office," said the prosecutor.

A student who worked for the company, Mr Shears said, was dispatched to Jersey with envelopes of cash to deposit into accounts. The business tycoon used an account in the name of his mother to receive stolen money to pay off his debts. Payments went to buy his former wife a Mercedes, purchase livestock for his country estate, or expensive properties.

An employee who noted discrepancies "was told to keep his mouth shut" and one executive who tried to introduce tighter financial controls found herself on a list of people to sack.

By June 1990, £305m – more than 80 per cent of PPI's total cash balances – were held in Turkish and North Cypriot subsidiaries. Months later Polly Peck went into administration with debts in excess of £550m.

"When PPI was in difficulty leading up to it going into administration it proved impossible for PPI to get the cash back to the UK... When the administrators went to Northern Cyprus they effectively found no cash at all, just a black hole," said Mr Shears.

Mr Nadir denies all charges in the case. The trial continues

Asil Nadir: Timeline to a trial

1959 Polly Peck (Holdings) Ltd is launched, incorporating a group of East End garment trade companies.

1980 Asil Nadir acquires a controlling interest in in the firm, which became Polly Peck International five years later.

1987-1990 Asil Nadir allegedly steals tens of millions from Polly Peck International.

1990 Polly Peck International goes into administration with debts in excess of £550m.

1993 Nadir flees the country for Northern Cyprus to avoid trial later that year.

2010 Nadir returns to the UK. He is remanded on bail and in December is arrested at his Mayfair home for an alleged breach. He threatens to sue the Metropolitan Police for wrongful arrest.

2012 The trial begins

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada