Robert Verkaik: Plea bargain deal could avoid long and costly legal process

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The Independent Online

Asil Nadir's decision to return to Britain to face allegations of theft and fraud is only the beginning of a long legal process that could run for more than a year.

The former Polly Peck chairman has hired a formidable legal team, led by William Clegg QC, which has been instructed to do all it can to have the charges thrown out.

Mr Nadir's lawyers will focus on the 17-year time lapse between his last court appearance and his return to the UK yesterday.

The unusual, complex history of the proceedings is likely to be subject to judicial review challenges in the High Court.

But Mr Nadir's first court appearance takes place at the Old Bailey next week, when a judge will oversee a case-management hearing. The 69-year-old faced 66 counts of theft involving £34m fraud allegations in 1993 when he fled Britain to northern Cyprus. Next week's hearing is expected to see the charges amended to reflect the Serious Fraud Office's current position.

One of the court's priorities will be to ensure that Mr Nadir has met the strict bail terms, given his record of absconding in this case.

Mr Nadir is not expected to be arrested but he has been electronically tagged, has had to surrender his passport, reside and sleep at an address in London, hand over £250,000 as court security and report to a police station once a week.

The Serious Fraud Office will also have one eye on the cost of the case. Its director, Richard Alderman, will not want to begin a long, costly legal process if there is little chance of a successful prosecution. Mr Nadir will also want to avoid years of living under strict bail conditions where his free movement is severely curtailed. This raises the possibility of a plea bargain in which Mr Nadir agrees to plead guilty to lesser charges.