Creditors hoping to retrieve the millions stolen by Polly Peck tycoon Asil Nadir before his firm's dramatic collapse are likely to remain disappointed, his former personal banker said last night.
Elizabeth Forsyth, 76, who prosecutors claim played a role in helping Nadir transfer stolen money abroad, yesterday cast fresh light on the reasons that the Polly Peck tycoon returned from his Mediterranean idyll to face trial in Britain after 17 years in self-imposed exile in Northern Cyprus.
She said that the tycoon had expected to be cleared even after an unsuccessful attempt to have the case against him thrown out after uncovering a document five years ago that he believed exonerated him of any wrong-doing. "He really felt he was not guilty, then this suddenly happened," she said from her home in Northern Cyprus. "We were all very shocked."
Ms Forsyth, who was named in court as helping Nadir in his "dishonest enterprise", served 10 months of a five-year prison sentence for handling stolen cash before it was overturned on appeal in 1997. A raid by the Serious Fraud Office in 1990 on the offices of her company, South Audley Management which handled Nadir family business, triggered the crisis that led to the demise of Polly Peck with debts of £550m after a period when it had been one of the best-performing companies on the stock market.
Nadir had transferred money from the company via a complex set of offshore accounts to fund his luxurious lifestyle and to boost the company's share price, but he claimed that balancing payments had been made abroad. Administrators who travelled to Northern Cyprus found only a "black hole", the court heard.
Ms Forsyth said that Nadir returned to Britain by private jet after his legal team in 2007 found a new document by administrators that he believed backed him up. "You can sit on a sun bed in the sun and have good food but we're not the sort of people who enjoy that," said Ms Forsyth, who met Nadir regularly during his exile. "He couldn't travel and his whole life he was a workaholic and it must have been very difficult for him not doing very much. This report must have tipped the scales."
Administrators said they planned to speak to Nadir in prison to secure some £374m being sought by creditors. Less than £3m has been recovered and nothing from Northern Cyprus.
Nadir, who stayed in a £20,000-a-month rented house in Mayfair while on bail since 2010, was discharged from bankruptcy in July but relied on the generosity of supporters, said Ms Forsyth. "The creditors took most of his assets years ago," she said. "I doubt very much there's anything there. He was not a philanthropist but he was helpful to people."