Police asked to explain links to Nadir 'plot': Solicitors trying to salvage assets for tycoon's creditors seek facts on witnesses. Tim Kelsey reports

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The Independent Online
SCOTLAND YARD and the Serious Fraud Office have been asked to explain their dealings with two police witnesses who claim that they tried to frame Asil Nadir.

Solicitors acting for the fugitive tycoon's trustees in bankruptcy who are trying to salvage assets for his creditors confirmed yesterday that they had written to senior Metropolitan Police officers, some of whom are on attachment to the Serious Fraud Office.

A spokesman for Dibb, Lupton & Broomhead said yesterday that they were seeking 'a full explanation from the police of what these two have been up to and whether they have handled any assets that belong to us'. Under powers given to them by the Insolvency Act, the trustees can summons individual police officers into court to give statements under oath.

The Independent has disclosed that Michael Francis and Wendy Welsher claim they tried to frame Nadir in a conspiracy to bribe his trial judge. Nadir, who jumped his pounds 3.5m bail last May, is charged with theft and false accounting involving more than pounds 30m while chairman of Polly Peck International.

Evidence provided by the two was used by police as the basis for a well-publicised investigation during which Nadir was arrested twice. The two became such important witnesses to the police that they were taken into police protection. Ms Welsher was moved into a special safehouse and her rent paid by the police.

But both suddenly fled police protection several weeks ago and are now living in northern Cyprus. They maintain that they have not been paid by Nadir to make their allegations. Among outstanding assets is a pounds 500,000 painting called Sisters by Lord Frederick Leighton, which Mr Francis claims he has and which legally belongs to the trustees. He claims the police know that he has it.

Taped telephone conversations between Mr Francis and Detective Chief Superintendent Tom Glen dinning, head of the Organised and International Crime Branch, reveal that police had reason to believe his claim. However, this suspicion was not passed on to the trustees.

The Independent has received copies of a search warrant issued in Zurich in November 1992 which was obtained by Det Chief Supt Glendinning and Det Supt James Davies, on attachment to the Serious Fraud Office. They were given leave to raid an address at which Mr Francis was believed to have hidden documents, tape recordings and other material.

The SFO has repeatedly said it had nothing to do with the investigation into the alleged conspiracy involving Nadir. When asked to explain why Det Supt Davies was involved in this raid, it refused to make any comment except to say: 'We would not discuss operational details of this matter.'

Mr Francis, who has a long criminal record but has been a police informer since 1980, claims that among these documents was a forged agreement which appeared to implicate Nadir in a plot to bribe his judge. This allegedly forged document was cited by police as part of the evidence during the ensuing investigation.

It is not known what was recovered during the raid.

Both Mr Francis and Ms Welsher say that they started to frame Nadir in January 1991 and claim that they were introduced to police officers at this stage. The Daily Mail reported yesterday that a senior Scotland Yard detective had confirmed that officers met the two in early 1991.

Scotland Yard had earlier said that it first became aware of allegations that Nadir was conspiring to pervert the course of justice the following year - in October 1992. It is not clear what the relationship between the police and the two informers was prior to that date.