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How Asil Nadir kept one step ahead: Chris Blackhurst tells how bankrupt fugitive used a Polly Peck subsidiary to transfer assets just days before the administrators moved in

ASIL NADIR was desperate. It was October 1990 and his Polly Peck hotel, fruit, electronics and packaging empire was collapsing.

Questions about his own share dealings and a Serious Fraud Office investigation, culminating in a well-publicised raid on his offices, had pushed Polly Peck to the brink. Banks that held its shares as security for personal loans to Nadir started to sell. Meetings to extricate the company from a deepening liquidity crisis had come to nought. The prospect of accountants and bankers seizing his assets was growing ever stronger. Nadir had to act - and fast.

His solution was simple and brilliant. Confidential papers filed in court in the Isle of Man, seen by the Independent, record how, just four days before administrators took control of Polly Peck on 25 October 1990, he was able to spirit away much of his empire, beyond their reach, to northern Cyprus.

Whether he was tipped off or not, they do not say. But his timing was impeccable.

His chosen vehicle was Voyager, a Polly Peck subsidiary owning shares in A & N Graphics Basim Ganayi Ve Ticaret, a Turkish printing company that controlled numerous Polly Peck businesses, including its hotels and fruit production operations.

Like other companies in the Nadir empire, Voyager was formally registered in the Isle of Man where company law means that disclosure about a company, its activities and financial affairs is kept to a minimum. But to make doubly certain that Voyager was hard to penetrate its registered office address was 31b Derby Road, Douglas, the island's main town, which, on closer inspection, turns out to be a wine shop that has been empty for years.

Before he could make his move, Nadir had to prepare the groundwork. On 16 October 1990, Voyager held a board meeting at the offices of the Nadir Group of companies, in Nicosia, Cyprus. Present were two directors, Fahri Tunalier and Ilker Nevzat. The subject of the meeting was Mr Nevzat's resignation, he had been ill for some time, and his replacement by Mentes Aziz, Nadir's friend, lawyer and closest confidante.

Not present were Voyager's two British directors, Andrew Green and Charles Collins. But, under the company's rules, a quorum of two was sufficient to ensure that the influential Mr Aziz came on board.

Five days later, on 21 October, at another meeting in Cyprus, Mr Tunalier and Mr Aziz voted to sell 32,000 shares held by Voyager in A & N Graphics to Nadir for pounds 8m. The money was well spent: the shares were enough to give Nadir control of A & N, and the myriad of businesses in the eastern Mediterranean it owned.

Just four days after the share transfer, the High Court in London appointed accountants Michael Jordan and Richard Stone, of Cork Gully, and Christopher Morris, of Touche Ross, to take over the running of Polly Peck. Fortunately for the accountants, Nadir made one mistake in arranging his paper getaway: one of the British directors, Andrew Green, was not told about the crucial board meeting where the sale of the A & N Graphics's shares was agreed.

In her statement to the administrators, Mine Gurses, a secretary for Voyager, said that she told Charles Collins about the meeting and asked him to tell Mr Green. But, in his affidavit, Mr Green says he was not told.

Last November, after much deliberation, a Manx judge decided that under company law, all directors must receive notice of a board meeting. They were not and the meeting was therefore improper. The transfer of the shares to Nadir was null and void.

Whether the administrators can gain control of Polly Peck's former businesses must be doubtful. There is no indication that Turkey will recognise the order. Above all, there is no proof that A & N Graphics still controls the assets it once did. Nadir, as ever, is likely to have remained one step ahead.

(Photograph omitted)