How events unfolded in the saga of Asil Nadir: Helen Nowicka traces three years of the increasingly complex Polly

August 1990: Serious Fraud Office begins investigating Polly Peck.

19 September: SFO raids offices of South Audley Management, a private company linked to Asil Nadir, Polly Peck chairman and chief executive.

20 September: Shares in Polly Peck suspended. Nadir is interviewed by SFO.

30 October: SFO and police raid Polly Peck International headquarters.

15 December: Nadir arrested and later charged with 18 offences of theft and false accounting - later reduced to 13, involving pounds 30m.

October 1991: Michael Mates, Tory MP for Hampshire East, writes to the Attorney General, then Sir Patrick Mayhew, questioning the SFO's involvement with Polly Peck and alleging that MI6 had played a role.

December 1992: Mr Mates, now Northern Ireland minister, writes again to the new Attorney General, Sir Nicholas Lyell, querying the SFO's handling of the Nadir investigation.

17 March 1993: Mr Mates writes to Attorney General a third time on Nadir, voicing 'concerns about injustice of the way this case is being handled'.

6 April: Nadir's flat in Eaton Square, London, raided by his trustees in bankruptcy; a pounds 3,500 gold Blancpain watch seized from his wrist.

1 May: As a birthday present, Mr Mates sends Nadir a pounds 50 watch inscribed 'Don't let the buggers get you down'.

4 May: Nadir flees Britain for northern Cyprus, jumping bail of pounds 3.5m.

30 May: Sunday papers reveal Mr Mates's gift of the watch to Nadir and the letters to the Attorney General. Mr Mates says the letters were written on behalf of a constituent later identified as Mark Rogerson, Nadir's publicity adviser.

31 May: Mr Mates defends the watch gift as 'a light-hearted gesture'; Nadir thanks Mr Mates for his 'unflinching help'.

1 June: Tory backbenchers voice disquiet over Mr Mates's involvement with Nadir; Labour demands an investigation.

6 June: Mail on Sunday quotes Mark Rogerson saying Mr Mates had 'several meetings' with Nadir who briefed him on SFO's handling of the case.

8 June: John Major tells the Commons Mr Mates made 'a misjudgement' over the watch but it was 'not a hanging


19 June: The Independent reveals Mr Mates accepted the loan of a Volvo 240 from Nadir's public relations consultants, Morgan Rogerson, after Nadir left for Cyprus. Mr Mates denies acting improperly and says the car was returned after 10 days.

20 June: Unnamed colleagues of Mr Mates say he believes MI6 wanted to bring down Nadir because his economic success in northern Cyprus was blocking unification of the island.

22 June: The Independent discloses Mr Mates based a 1991 letter to the Attorney General on a draft supplied by the Nadir camp, which the Northern Ireland minister denied.

23 June: Sir Robin Butler, Cabinet Secretary, rules the loan of the Volvo did not breach ministerial guidelines. Mates dines at the Reform Club with Christopher Morgan, Nadir's PR man.

24 June: The Daily Mail publishes Mr Mates's 17 March letter to the Attorney General. The leak is viewed by Mr Mates's friends as evidence of a dirty-tricks campaign. Mr Mates's resignation is announced to the Commons by Mr Major. In his letter to the Prime Minister he says he is going because of the damage being done to the Government by cumulative leaks. He adds: 'In retrospect I rather wish I had sent the watch with its now famous message to you.'

25 June: Downing Street rules out an inquiry into the leaks against Mr Mates.

29 June: Mr Mates uses Commons resignation speech to claim SFO deliberately tried to destabilise Nadir's defence. The Speaker, Betty Boothroyd, tries to silence him several times as he alleges that the SFO tipped off the media about raids on Nadir's offices, exerted 'improper pressure' on the trial judge - and leaked his letter to the Daily Mail. The Attorney General says Mr Mates's claims have been looked into and were without foundation or had a reasonable explanation.

30 June: Calls for inquiry into SFO fuelled by news that a lawyer at the agency forged a letter from former Liberal Democrat leader, Sir David Steel, as an 'April Fool's joke'. SFO blames City of London police.

1 July: In an exclusive interview with the Independent, Mr Mates says Anthony Scrivener QC, former chairman of the Bar Council and Asil Nadir's defence counsel, was behind his allegations of SFO impropriety.

2 July: The Guardian claims Mr Mates's 17 March letter was given to the Daily Mail by Michael Allcock, a suspended Inland Revenue investigator. Letter later revealed to be a hoax written by Trevor Timbs.

(Photograph omitted)

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