Jeers prompt angry escape from reporters: Hugh Pope witnesses an inauspicious start to a fugitive's campaign against 'British injustice'

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The Independent Online
ASIL NADIR yesterday fled from his first major confrontation with the British media at a hotel in the breakaway republic of northern Cyprus, an inauspicious opening for what he says will be a public fight against British injustice.

'I want to publicise things that will shake the world,' he said. 'The British authorities demolished my hope of having a fair trial. I had to have freedom to move and to talk freely. So I came here. At last I have got the basic human right to defend myself.'

But after he read out a statement, shouts from British reporters of 'When are you going back to Britain?' and 'Chicken' prompted him to storm out of his first news conference since he jumped bail and fled Britain to his village on Tuesday. Afterwards his lawyer, Ali Riza Gorbon, said their strategy would be to build up a case against the British authorities. It would take a long time to sort out hundreds of documents and tapes, 'but I do believe that in the end he will go back to England'.

Nadir's tone often seemed tremulous, ingratiating or even pleading as he retold a litany of abuses during his three years under investigation for fraud as founder and chief executive of Polly Peck International. Because of British laws of contempt of court, Nadir said he had been unable to speak about most of this in Britain.

Nadir believed he was unfairly treated from the moment the media were tipped off about the first Serious Fraud Office raid in September 1990 on his private holding company, South Audley Management. He said he knew he would be arrested on return from a later trip to Turkey, but that he had had 'great faith in British justice. I wanted the whole ghastly business to be cleared up'.

His private plane, however, was diverted to a remote corner of Heathrow airport and was stormed by 60 armed police. The aircraft's interior was torn apart and he was thrown in prison. Bail was set at a British record of pounds 3.5m and he was not allowed to contact any of his commercial contacts, he said. British investigators and the administrators of Polly Peck assets acted in illegal concert, he alleged, while an empire that once employed 175,000 people was broken up in 'the sale of the century'. Finally, Nadir said his home and office were entered on 6 April and stripped of all documents relating to his defence. He said the judge handling the case was also accused of 'conspiring to pervert the course of justice'. 'The charade continued . . . in a court the size of a broom cupboard. Most of this hearing involved a High Court judge continually protesting his innocence. It was pure farce.'

Nadir's appearance and account of British 'skulduggery, torture, trumped-up allegations and lies' did not lack its own moments of drama either. One beneficiary was a ram that a hotel chef was about to slaughter, as is traditional in Turkish culture on the return of a long- lost son. Nadir's media handlers realised the disastrous impact the blood-spattered images might have on British television.

But despite public goodwill towards Nadir in north Cyprus and announcements that free buses would be laid on for all wanting to greet him when he appeared, the only people on hand to welcome him were enthusiastic hotel employees waving placards saying 'Asil Nadir is innocent' and 'He's not a murderer'.

'In England he was a witness, now he is a fugitive,' a local journalist said. 'Most people support Mr Nadir here, but somehow we know it will end badly for us, and for him.'