From private jet to prison van: Asil Nadir faces 10 years in jail

Fugitive tycoon's decision to face justice backfires as jury finds him guilty of ten charges of theft

He arrived in a private jet; he left in a prison van. After 22 years noisily proclaiming his innocence, the former fugitive Asil Nadir was facing a long jail term last night after he was convicted of stealing £28.6m from the multinational empire that he led to one of Britain's biggest corporate failures.

Nadir, 71, was convicted of 10 counts of multimillion-pound theft from Polly Peck International, the company he built into one of the stock market favourites of the 1980s. The tycoon, who fled the country by private aeroplane in 1993 for 17 years of self-imposed exile in Northern Cyprus, used the proceeds of his thefts to prop up the company's share price and his lavish lifestyle of luxury cars, property, art and racehorses.

Nadir now faces a prison visit from administrators chasing £374m on behalf of the creditors who were left with virtually nothing after PPI collapsed with £550m of debts. The tycoon, who will be sentenced today, is also likely to face demands for compensation of at least £60m next month – which could result in a further jail term of up to 10 years if he does not pay up. The question of why Nadir, a major Tory Party donor who had the ear of its leadership in the 1980s, decided to return to Britain in 2010 remains unclear. He lived in a beautiful seaside villa with a young wife and two parrots, Polly and Peck. He was politically influential in the Turkish section of the divided island and remained out of reach of Britain's extradition laws.

For a man who described himself in court as a business "visionary", his return to face trial to right a "burning injustice" was shown to be remarkably short-sighted. He arrived on a privately chartered plane accompanied by a television news team and was taken by car to a £20,000-a-month rented house in Mayfair which he shared with his second wife, Nur, 28.

He remained on bail on an electronic tag – backed by a round-the-clock security team, lawyers and a public relations firm – until he was convicted on the first of the theft counts on Monday.

Nadir, who had denied all the 13 charges and was cleared of three, did not react to the latest guilty verdicts and listened to the judge with his chin on his fists, flanked by two security officers.

Mrs Nadir indicated that her husband would appeal against the verdict. "A guilty man does not come back to face justice of his own accord," she said. "Polly Peck was his life. This unhappy affair is certainly not over yet."

It can be reported today that Nadir twice tried – and failed – to have the case thrown out after accusing a senior Serious Fraud Office (SFO) official of a "Watergate-style cover-up" after bundles of confidential material meant only for the tycoon and his legal team were copied and circulated by investigators after a raid on one of his businesses. He also tried to avoid trial on health grounds two days before the case was due to start.

Had he been cleared of all the charges, there was speculation that Nadir could have sued the SFO. He ended his period as one of Britain's longest-serving bankrupts after returning to the UK and could have kept any proceeds he had made from legal action, according to legal sources.

The verdict vindicated the SFO's pursuit of the flamboyant magnate. Its budget had been cut after a string of high-profile setbacks and it had only narrowly survived a shake-up of British law enforcement. David Green, who took over as director in April, described the conviction as "a remarkable achievement".

Nadir bought Polly Peck in 1980 for £300,000 and under his autocratic leadership expanded it to a company worth nearly £2bn, trading everything from fruit to kettles, after a series of acquisitions including Del Monte and Russell Hobbs. He became one of the country's richest men, with a string of luxury properties, race horses and an island in the Aegean. But after the SFO started investigating, his empire collapsed with huge debts and the loss of some 17,000 jobs. Creditors were left penniless after Nadir siphoned money abroad through a network of offshore vehicles, helped by associates.

The £28.6m he was found guilty of stealing – the equivalent of nearly £62m today – is believed to be a fraction of the £380m or more that he shifted abroad, according to the SFO.

So far only £2.8m of assets have been recovered and none repatriated from Northern Cyprus, said Kevin Hellard, a partner at Grant Thornton, who is leading attempts to retrieve money from Nadir. He expects others to come forward with details of hidden assets now that Nadir had been convicted. "Now that the trial process has completed, we will continue to press Mr Nadir to deal with outstanding questions and will interview him in prison if necessary," he said.

Five art works bought by Nadir, including oil paintings, are listed on the Art Loss Register, which trawls the art market for stolen and missing items.

The victim: 'A likeable rogue. But you shouldn't lend him money'

Nick Chrimes, 61, a writer from Essex, was one of the small investors stung by the collapse of Polly Peck – he lost an investment that was once worth £15,000. More than 20 years later he is philosophical

"I'm in favour of Michael Mates' view. Don't let the buggers get you down."

Following the collapse of the company, creditors secured just a couple of pennies in the pound while shareholders lost everything. But Mr Chrimes has some sympathy for Asil Nadir, a man he describes as a "likeable rogue who you shouldn't have lent any money to. He is certainly not all bad. He's no one's fool. I don't see why else he would land himself voluntarily with a prison sentence when in his 70s."

He added: "There are worse fates than being confined to Turkey and Northern Cyprus when you're rich."

News
peopleChildren leave in tears as Santa is caught smoking and drinking
Arts and Entertainment
A host of big name acts recorded 'Do They Know It's Christmas?' in London on Saturday
musicCharity single tops chart
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Backshall has become the eighth celebrity to leave Strictly Come Dancing
tv
News
people
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
tvStrictly presenter returns to screens after Halloween accident
News
peopleFormer civil rights activist who was jailed for smoking crack cocaine has died aged 78
News
i100
News
Boxing promoter Kellie Maloney, formerly known as Frank Maloney, entered the 2014 Celebrity Big Brother house
people
Sport
Dwight Gayle (left) celebrates making it 1-1 with Crystal Palace captain Mile Jedinak
premier leagueReds falter to humbling defeat
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin