Asil Nadir was driven by pure greed to steal nearly £30m from his business empire and then blamed everyone else for its spectacular collapse, a judge said yesterday as he jailed the tycoon and former fugitive for a decade.
Mr Justice Holroyde said the sole concern of the 71-year-old former Conservative donor during his eight-month trial had been to avoid responsibility for the failure of Polly Peck International in 1990 despite stealing millions of pounds for three years from its coffers to fund his lavish lifestyle.
The company collapsed in 1990 with debts of £550m and Nadir, facing a criminal trial, fled the country three years later by plane from a small Dorset airfield for 17 years of exile in Northern Cyprus out of reach of British extradition laws. He returned only in 2010 and was convicted this week of 10 counts of theft of money that he spent on property, artificially boosting the company's share price and his extravagant lifestyle.
He now faces demands to pay a compensation bill upwards of £60m as well as prosecution costs of about £3m.
Mr Nadir, who received legal aid for the trial, will have to compile a list of his assets before a hearing next month which will set the amount that he should pay in compensation. Creditors are seeking £374m, but administrators have so far recovered less than £3m while Mr Nadir lived in luxury in his Northern Cypriot bolt hole.
Mr Nadir, who was discharged from bankruptcy this year after one of the longest periods in British legal history, has been living in a £20,000-a-month rented home in London's Mayfair since his voluntary return from Northern Cyprus in 2010 to stand trial.
It is understood that he will claim the money is being paid by his family and his wife suggested that it was a "great prejudice" to suggest that he lived solely off Polly Peck, which he built up from a small company into a major conglomerate.
Mr Justice Holroyde told him that he was a "wealthy man who stole out of pure greed" and then frustrated any meaningful investigation of his company's finances. "You are a man of considerable charm and unfailing courtesy, and it is sad to see the waste of your undoubted talents," Mr Justice Holroyde told Nadir. "But you have shown not the slightest remorse for your crime. Your sole concern throughout has been to avoid any acceptance of your own responsibility."
Nadir said "Thank you my lord" in a broken voice before being led out of the Old Bailey dock to start his sentence. He smiled at his wife Nur, 28, and Turkish journalists covering the case. He is likely to be released after serving half of his sentence.
His wife said yesterday that her husband – whom she described as a "business genius" – would be appealing against the sentence. "My husband is innocent and we will continue with our efforts to rectify the wrongs," she said in a statement outside the Old Bailey, before leaving in chauffeur-driven Jaguar.
Wife pays tribute to 'business genius'
A few minutes earlier, her husband had been condemned as a thief driven by "pure greed" who had finally reached his day of reckoning. It was in marked contrast to the image painted outside the court by his wife of the "business genius" who had "brought jobs, prosperity to tens of thousands of people around the world".
Nur Nadir, 28, appeared loyally by her husband's side for the duration of his trial. Mrs Nadir reportedly met her future husband when she started working as an intern at his Cypriot media company. They were engaged 25 days later and married when she was just 21. It was the second marriage for Asil Nadir.
She described her husband yesterday as a "warm and wonderful man" as she read from a statement with her driver standing at her shoulder.
She promised to continue fighting on his behalf. "This man devoted his life to working, helping and giving to those who were around him as a direct result of his hard work," she said. "He rightly earned a high standard of living which he himself created many years prior to Polly Peck."
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