Fugitive tycoon Asil Nadir finally faces a judge

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The Independent Online

Fugitive tycoon Asil Nadir finally faced a judge today, 17 years after fleeing Britain complaining he would not get a fair trial.

He arrived at the Old Bailey in a chauffeur-driven car and was escorted to the dock by City of London police officers.

But Nadir's attempts to speed up the legal process fell flat when he was told his trial on multi-million pound theft charges could not take place before October, next year.

Nadir's barrister William Clegg QC had argued that a delay of more than 28 days in receiving details of the charges and case against his client, was too long.

He said: "The trial has started. It has been adjourned a very long time, but technically it has started.

"Mr Nadir is anxious to have this case heard as soon as possible."

The judge, Mr Justice Bean, said: "The 17-year delay is not the fault of the prosecution. It is the fault of Mr Nadir."

He said 28 days was "wholly unrealistic" and gave the Serious Fraud Office until December 3 to serve its case.

Philip Shears QC, prosecuting, said there were potentially 183 witnesses who had to be traced, some of whom may have died.

The case summary had to be reviewed and updated and a new indictment presented to the court, he said.

Nadir, 69, of Mayfair, was remanded on conditional bail to return to court on October 15 so progress could be checked.

His lawyers are to apply to a trial judge to have the case thrown out in March.

Mr Justice Bean said Nadir had complied with bail conditions such as lodging a £250,000 security, reporting to a police station and surrendering his passports.

But he said an electronic tag had not been fitted because of "technical" reasons.

Despite defence objections, he ordered that Nadir should now be electronically tagged and imposed a curfew of midnight to 6am.

Nadir, wearing a blue suit and gold-rimmed glasses, spoke only to confirm his identity during the hour-long hearing.

The female clerk asked him: "Are you Asil Nadir?" He replied: "Yes, I am."

He occasionally glanced at the packed public gallery where his 26-year-old wife Nur sat with other supporters.

Nadir was originally charged with 66 offences of theft alleging a £34 million fraud following the collapse of his Polly Peck empire.

The alleged offences appear to have been condensed into 15 charges but he fled before they could be put to him at trial.

In 1992 he attended an informal court hearing in London. It was later found he was not technically on bail.

In May 1993 he was flown from Britain in a private plane to the Turkish republic of Northern Cyprus which has no extradition treaty with Britain.

But on July 30 this year Mr Justice Bean was told he wanted to return to fight the case. He granted Nadir bail in his absence on condition he attended court today.

Nadir flew back to England last week protesting his innocence.

Further hearings are due to take place in December, January and March, next year.