Nadir friend may escape pounds 1m forfeit

IN AN oversight likely to embarrass the Serious Fraud Office, the Turkish businessman who stood a pounds 1m bail surety for Asil Nadir, the fugitive Cypriot tycoon, may escape forfeiting his pledge. It is also likely that a further pounds 2m paid into court as security on Nadir's behalf will be returned.

Lawyers acting for Ramadan Guney, a friend of Nadir's who lives in London, are confident that he will retain his pounds 1m surety. A hearing on Friday at the Old Bailey will determine whether the surety is forfeit.

It will also consider whether a surety of pounds 500,000 pledged by Nadir's ex-wife is forfeit. Nadir fled charges of false accounting and theft involving more than pounds 30m in May, jumping his pounds 3.5m bail - the largest in British legal history.

The SFO did not, as it should have done, extend the conditions of this bail at a Crown Court pre-trial hearing in June last year. The consequence of that surprising oversight is that technically neither Mr Guney nor Nadir's former wife, Ayesha, are now liable for their sureties.

One source said the SFO had 'started running around like headless chickens' when it realised it had failed to retake the sureties at the hearing.

'As prosecuting authority, it was supposed to advise the judge at the hearing regarding the bail conditions. It should have asked for renewal. The sheer incompetence will make it pretty embarrassed.'

The SFO, which denies allegations by Nadir that it tried to pervert the course of his trial and fabricated evidence over an alleged plot to bribe the judge, declined to comment yesterday. 'All this will be discussed in court on Friday,' the SFO said.

A total of pounds 2m of the bail was lodged with Nadir's solicitors as security against his presence at trial. Nadir borrowed this money from Impexbank of Istanbul. The High Court will not be making a ruling on this security on Friday because of a dispute over its ownership.