Asil Nadir denies stealing £150m from Polly Peck business empire

 

Former fugitive tycoon Asil Nadir denied today that he stole £150 million from his business empire.

But he told an Old Bailey jury there was no dispute that the funds had been sent to a subsidiary company in Northern Cyprus.

This, he said, was to get better exchange rates to boost the company's expanding business interests abroad.

Asked by his barrister if he disputed the movement of funds to Unipac, Nadir replied: "Not at all."

Nadir was giving evidence 22 years after Polly Peck International was put into administration with debts of £550 million.

Nadir, 71, of Mayfair, central London, denies 13 specimen counts of theft amounting to £34 million between 1987 and 1990.

He was arrested and was due to stand trial in 1993 but left Britain for Northern Cyprus, returning in August 2010.

The prosecution said his flight from the country for 17 years is evidence of dishonesty.

When administrators went to Northern Cyprus to recover assets, they found the money had vanished into a "black hole", it is alleged.

The stock exchange price for PPI, which had been worth £2 billion, collapsed after the Serious Fraud Office executed a search warrant for Nadir's South Audley Management company in September 1990.

Nadir told the court that, in his opinion, PPI was not insolvent when the board put it into administration on October 25 1990, while he was on a plane flying into Britain.

He said: "I think it had a tremendous future and this attitude was shared by the top brokers and investors in this country and worldwide.

"Finance was available from Turkey. The amount discussed was £70 million to obtain a standstill.

"The finance was from three top Turkish banks on the instigation of the president of Turkey. It was a committed financial arrangement."

He said he was "not guilty" of theft. "Before any monies moved from PPI, the equivalent sums in Turkish lira in areas where PPI were operating were banked in TL."

Asked where the money had come from, he said: "My family and third parties, but predominantly my family."

He said they were keen to do so because of practicality and cost, resulting in a better unofficial exchange rate.

Nadir gave evidence five months after the trial started. He was watched from the back of the court by his second wife Nur, 28.

He told jurors he began in business at the age of six when he sold newspapers on the streets of Northern Cyprus.

After coming to Britain in 1963, he started a textile business and acquired PPI in 1980.

Over the next 10 years, the "small company" expanded into other areas and became a success.

"Towards the middle of 1990, it was one of the best-performing companies in the world," he said.

This culminated in the acquisition of Del Monte, one of the three biggest fruit producers in the world, for one billion dollars.

Nadir told the court that by the time he left the UK for Northern Cyprus in May 1993, he was "a totally broken man".

He was being sued by the administrators of Polly Peck, had been made personally bankrupt and faced criminal court proceedings.

Nadir said: "I was a totally broken man. My health was in tatters, my hope of a fair trial was in tatters, I had zero hope of receiving a fair trial."

He denied any involvement in an alleged attempt to bribe the High Court judge presiding over the criminal proceedings, Mr Justice Tucker.

Nadir told the court that he first heard details of the alleged plot at a hearing in November 1992, when prosecutors warned that police may wish to interview the judge.

"It was a frightening situation for me," Nadir said. "I was in a court in front of a High Court judge, that I was relying on being given a fair trial, and now the prosecution was actually, in my understanding, putting the judge in the most difficult position.

"I still remember the concern and fear his Lordship had in his face."

The former tycoon also said he was "extremely worried and concerned" to find that certain items of his post had been intercepted as part of the bankruptcy proceedings.

Nadir only discovered this was happening when his lawyers employed private detectives to look into what was going on, the court heard.

The court had earlier been told that the judge was not interviewed but was cleared of any suspicion about his integrity.

The CPS said there was no credible evidence to support the allegation.

Nadir told the court he left the country on May 4, 1993. "I was a broken man with no hope," he said.

PA

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