Police suspected the Polly Peck tycoon Asil Nadir tried to bribe the judge of his impending Old Bailey trial 20 years ago, it emerged yesterday.
The revelation came as Mr Nadir took the stand for the first time in his ongoing theft trial over the alleged disappearance of £150m from his company.
The jury in the current trial was told that detectives had investigated an alleged bribery plot involving Mr Nadir 20 years ago. News of the investigation was made public in court in March 1993 and left the judge, Mr Justice Tucker, with a look of fear across his face, jurors heard yesterday.
As a result Mr Nadir's original trial date was put back amid concerns that the judge would be interviewed by police and have to remove himself from hearing the case. Within six months Mr Nadir, facing charges over the collapse of the £2bn company, had fled the country. Yesterday he described himself then as "a broken man with my health in tatters and my hopes for a fair trial in tatters."
Mr Nadir, now 71, did not return to Britain from northern Cyprus until August 2010. Questioned about the allegation of a conspiracy to bribe Mr Justice Tucker, Mr Nadir stated categorically neither he nor anyone connected to him had any involvement.
Mr Nadir said yesterday: "I didn't know what they were talking about but I was in a frightening situation. I still remember the concern and fear his lordship had on his face."
Mr Nadir told the court he flew out of Britain in May 1993 "because I had zero hope of receiving a fair trial". Earlier he described how he had bought Polly Peck for around £300,000 in 1980 and transformed it into a £2bn global fruit and electronics conglomerate. When it collapsed he believed it still had a "tremendous future" as he had a bailout plan ready, he told the court.
Mr Nadir denies leaving a gaping black hole in the finances of the firm to spend on himself, his family and friends. He has pleaded not guilty to 13 specimen charges of theft totalling £34m but the jury has been told the true figure he is alleged to have stolen is nearer £150m taken in three years up to August 1990. The case continues.
In 1993, Asil Nadir, facing charges over the collapse of the £2bn Polly Peck, fled to Cyprus