Flight leaves fraud inquiry in doubt

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The Independent Online
ASIL NADIR'S flight to Cyprus leaves the Serious Fraud Office pondering the future of a high-profile criminal case, involving 76 charges of theft and false accounting worth pounds 155m, writes John Willcock.

Yesterday, legal advisers and detectives at the squad's Elm Street head office in London were uncertain how best to proceed. After being forced to abandon plans for a second and third trial over the Guinness affair, the SFO, under its new director, George Staple, is unlikely to let go of this case lightly.

Nadir's problems started in the second half of 1990 with reports of an Inland Revenue investigation which sent Polly Peck shares, then worth pounds 2bn, reeling. By 20 September, when the court appointed administrators, the company's value had fallen to pounds 467.8m.

Soon afterwards the Serious Fraud Office staged a dawn raid on Polly Peck's South Audley Street head office using armed police. In December, Nadir was arrested at Heathrow airport and charged with 18 counts of theft and false accounting involving some pounds 25m. He was set record bail totalling pounds 3.5m and subjected to a series of conditions, which included reporting to the police every week.

In October 1991, Nadir, now a familiar figure at Bow Street court, was charged with a further 58 counts of theft and false accounting involving pounds 130m.

Most of the charges relate to transfers from Polly Peck International to its northern Cyprus fruit packing subsidiary Unipac. His trial was being pencilled in for September at the Old Bailey. Following his flight, the SFO will have to think again.