On the run since 1993, Asil Nadir will finally face trial for £34m theft

The last that Asil Nadir saw of England was the glinting village lights of Compton Abbas, Dorset, out of the small window of his Piper aircraft, as he fled the country in the middle of the night 17 years ago.

Since then the 69-year-old former multimillionaire businessman has lived his life as a well-heeled fugitive. Unable to travel from his home in the Turkish republic of Northern Cyprus for fear of being deported to Britain, he has noisily protested from afar his innocence of charges of stealing millions from investors in his company Polly Peck.

But yesterday, in a carefully choreographed legal move, the way was finally cleared for Mr Nadir to return to Britain within the next few weeks to face trial. In a special hearing at the Old Bailey, Mr Justice Bean agreed to a request from Mr Nadir's lawyers to grant him bail on condition he return to the UK by 3 September to face 66 charges of the theft of £34m.

"I think it is desirable that the legal limbo as to Mr Nadir's bail status should be brought to an end and he should be given the opportunity to submit to the jurisdiction of this court by attending in person," the judge said.

Under the bail conditions, Mr Nadir will have to deposit £250,000 with the court as a security before returning, submit to electronic tagging, surrender his travel documents and attend court on 3 September. Mr Nadir will also have to apply for a British passport before he can travel.

The court's decision is a pivotal moment in a political and legal saga which has lasted for more than 20 years.

Polly Peck, the company the Mr Nadir built up from scratch, dealt in everything from fruit to fashion and was one of the biggest City success stories of the 1980s, delivering returns to shareholders of up to 1,000 times their original investment.

The former rag salesman was 39th on the Sunday Times Rich List, had luxury properties in London and the country, an island in the Aegean Sea and a dozen racehorses. Mr Nadir was also a major Tory party donor, a frequent guest at Downing Street, and rubbed shoulders with the royal family.

But in 1990 a bankruptcy petition was lodged against Mr Nadir by his own stockbrokers demanding payment for £3.6m. The Serious fraud Office raided his management company's offices and Polly Peck shares crashed before trading was suspended. In one day, £160m was wiped off the company's value, sparking its collapse. Mr Nadir was arrested and charged with theft and false accounting.

The Serious Fraud Office alleged that tens of millions of pounds were transferred out of Polly Peck and into secret accounts in northern Cyprus and elsewhere. With Polly Peck liabilities of £1.3bn, creditors were eventually paid just 2.9p in the pound – while shareholders got nothing.

And then, while on bail Mr Nadir disappeared, taking off in the light aircraft from a Dorset airfield in May 1993.

A month later his friend, the then Northern Ireland minister Michael Mates, was forced to resign after it emerged that he had given Mr Nadir the gift of a watch inscribed "Don't let the buggers get you down" after Mr Nadir's own, much more expensive timepiece, was seized by bailiffs.

But Mr Nadir has always maintained his innocence.

While in Cyprus he commissioned reports by two firms of accountants which conclude that the allegedly illegal transfers from Polly Peck in London to subsidiaries in northern Cyprus were no such thing and that the money involved was accounted for.

In addition, he says, forensic document examiners have checked the books and authorised them as contemporaneous records. Subsequently, Mr Nadir has employed accountants to detail every transfer of money from London to northern Cyprus.

In an interview earlier this month Mr Nadir said any accusation that he stole from Polly Peck, which he regarded as his company, did not make sense.

"For a man with so much wealth, why would I risk everything? I was the chairman, the chief executive, but I was also the biggest shareholder – I was close to 30 per cent," he said.

"Why would a man be tempted to take away from the company in which he is the biggest shareholder and, if something went wrong, he would be the biggest loser? There is no motive."

Mr Nadir, who has subsequently built up a new business in North Cyprus, said it was worth facing facing the risk of prison for the sake of clearing his name.

"I am happy, but knowing the injustice that was practised on me, I want to get the authorities to rectify it. Time doesn't cure the pain. In order to find peace and solace within me I have to continue to search every avenue within legality to bring this matter to a conclusion in the manner that it deserves."

The fall of Polly Peck


Serious Fraud Office raids Polly Peck and South Audley Management, which ran Nadir family trusts; Asil Nadir arrested on theft and false accounting charges. Polly Peck, once worth £1.7bn, collapses. Shareholders lose everything


Mr Nadir declared bankrupt as more charges are laid against him; bailiffs seize his home and possessions


Police investigate a possible bribery plot by Mr Nadir, but an inquiry finds that no such plot existed

May 1993

Mr Nadir flies to France, then northern Cyprus. It emerges that Conservative minister Michael Mates gave Mr Nadir a watch engraved: "Don't let the buggers get you down"

June 1993

Mr Mates resigns from government over his relationship with Mr Nadir. However, he calls for an urgent, independent inquiry into the SFO's conduct of the Nadir case


Elizabeth Forsyth, a close aide to Mr Nadir, is cleared on appeal of laundering £400,000 of Polly Peck money


The High Court insists that Mr Nadir must return to Britain if he wants legal redress


The firm Stoy Hayward is fined by the accountancy watchdog for failures in auditing Polly Peck's books


A judge agrees to grant Mr Nadir bail if he returns to the UK to face trial

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before