Political official meets Nadir and 'mystery woman': Fugitive tells of 'happiness at return to his people' as intrigue surrounds 12-hour flight that bypassed immigration authorities

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The Independent Online
ASIL NADIR arrived in northern Cyprus with a 'mystery woman' after a 10- to 12-hour flight that is thought to have been routed via Scotland and France, sources in Cyprus and Turkey said yesterday.

Diplomats in Turkey said that Nadir was believed to have left a private airfield in Scotland on a small executive jet and to have passed through Paris without clearing immigration. He entered the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus at Ercan airport, near Nicosia, at 10:23pm local time on Tuesday, Turkish Cypriot police said.

The jet then left for an undisclosed destination.

Nadir, who is feted as a hero in the republic because of the boost he has given to the local economy, was met by Mustafa Erbilen, the deputy chairman of the ruling National Unity Party, his sister Bilge Nevzad and his brother-in-law Fehim Nevzat.

According to the unofficial Turkish news agency, Nadir went to see his mother, Safiye, in Turkish Nicosia, kissed her hands and received her blessings on his birthday, before flying by helicopter to his villa at Lapta, eight miles west of the coastal town of Kyrenia, where he spent the night.

He told a Turkish-Cypriot journalist, Mehmet Ali Akpinar: 'No words can express the happiness I feel coming back to my people. Of course, there are many things I would like to say about what happened in the past three years in Britain . . .'

Earlier reports that the Turkish-Cypriot-born British businessman had flown out of Britain using an aviation company called Airstation, from Hatfield in Hertfordshire, were questioned by the Civil Aviation Authority, which said that it had no record of Airstation. British Aerospace, which operates a passenger terminal for business and charter aircraft at the Hatfield aerodrome, said Nadir's name was not on passenger lists for Tuesday's six flights to France, Sweden, the Czech republic, Saudi Arabia and Germany.

There is nothing to stop a private jet leaving British air space and flying anywhere. The private charter business is secretive and thrives on the desires of businessmen to travel at short notice and to conceal their movements.

It emerged last night that at the time Nadir was arriving in the north of the island, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, the Lord Chancellor, George Staple, director of the Serious Fraud Office, and Rodger Pannone, head of the British law firm representing Nadir, were all in southern Cyprus attending a Commonwealth law conference. A spokesman for Pannone & Partners said that the conference had been a long-standing engagement and Nadir's presence on the island was 'purely coincidental'.

Surrendering his British and Turkish passports to police as conditions of his bail could not have prevented Nadir leaving the country, the Home Office said, because departing travellers do not have to show their passport. 'You don't need a passport to get out of the country,' a spokesman said. 'Our whole policy is geared to immigration not emigration. He may have been asked to produce a passport but he could have said no. We'd have had no power to insist. All we can do is remind travellers that they will need a valid passport to get back into Britain. There is a requirement for pilots to inform local immigration offices of the names and nationalities of passengers who are not EC citizens. That is not always done, however, and I doubt that it was in this case.' There were no immigration officers at smaller airports, he added.

Nadir's associates said yesterday that he was tired but 'in good spirits' and happy to be in a position to prove his innocence. He is understood to be claiming that he has documents which prove that Polly Peck's collapse was engineered by Greek Cypriot interests.

(Photographs omitted)