How to get our hands on Mr Nadir: John Torode looks at three ways Turkish Cyprus could be made to return the fugitive

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The Independent Online
IT IS more than a month since the one-time multimillionaire Asil Nadir jumped his pounds 3.5m bail and fled to his homeland, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). Britain's apparently half-hearted efforts to force the fugitive's return have come to nought.

Mr Nadir is living in style and going about his business in the unrecognised mini-state that occupies the northern third of Cyprus, where he is feted as a local hero. He is particularly close to the country's President, Rauf Denktash, under whose patronage he developed his extensive agricultural, hotel and publishing empire in the country.

Mr Nadir, a Tory party benefactor, had friends in high places in this country, too. Although there is no suggestion that any of them have acted improperly, it has emerged since his flight that on separate occasions, three Tory ministers had previously approached the Attorney General on behalf of the former chairman of Polly Peck, who faces charges of fraud involving pounds 30m.

They are Michael Heseltine, the President of the Board of Trade, Peter Brooke, Secretary of State for National Heritage and Mr Nadir's constituency MP, and Michael Mates, a Northern Ireland minister and friend. Only three days before Mr Nadir moved on to warmer climes, Mr Mates presented him with a cheap watch engraved with the immortal phrase 'Don't let the buggers get you down'.

The British government claims that there is next to nothing it can do to force Turkish Cyprus to return Mr Nadir. No extradition treaty exists because Britain does not recognise the TRNC.

For his part, Mr Denktash says he is not prepared 'to kidnap a man (Nadir) and hand him over to Britain'. The TRNC says it is considering giving Mr Nadir police protection in case the British authorities attempt to abduct him.

Mr Denktash has invited the British authorities to begin proceedings in the Turkish Cypriot courts. But this offer is designed to be unacceptable. Mr Denktash is a British- trained barrister. He knows full well that his proposal would necessitate British recognition of his administration, which is sustained by the armed forces of mainland Turkey, which seized the territory in 1974.

Turkish Cyprus is recognised only by Turkey, which keeps a military force at least 40,000 strong on the partitioned island. This is why the British Foreign Office has concentrated its pressure on Turkey, telling the ambassador in London that this country, according to a Foreign Office statement, 'would expect Turkey to use all its influence to have Nadir returned to British jurisdiction'.

Alecos Michaelides, who was appointed Foreign Minister of the internationally recognised Republic of Cyprus in February, recently met his British counterpart, Douglas Hurd, in London. He argues that the Government is wrong to say that it can do little to compel Mr Nadir to return. 'Britain has all the leverage it needs to force the Turkish Cypriot pseudo-state to return Nadir,' Mr Michaelides says. 'All that is required is for London to cease turning a blind eye to systematic violations of international agreements by the Denktash regime.'

Mr Michaelides believes that a tough enforcement of existing regulations concerning trade, passports and air transport would effectively isolate Turkish Cyprus. His claims are an embarrassment to the British government. But they are almost certainly correct.

First, trade. More than half the export revenue of Turkish Cyprus comes from trade in citrus fruits, mainly to this country. Exports from Cyprus (Greek and Turkish) to Europe are governed by the treaty of association with the European Community. All goods should carry two certificates, one of which identifies the country of origin while a further 'phytosanitary' document shows that health requirements have been met. Both have to be signed by 'a legitimate authority', in this case an authorised agent of the Republic of Cyprus. The Republic is willing to sign documents for Turkish Cypriots, but the Turkish Cypriot administration will not allow its inhabitants to apply for them.

Instead certificates are regularly issued by the unrecognised Turkish Cypriot regime. The British government turns a blind eye to the practice and allows Turkish Cypriot goods into this country. If Britain enforced the association agreement, no Turkish Cypriot goods would be accepted.

Then there is the question of passports. Turkish Cypriot business people move freely between Britain and northern Cyprus - as do 50,000 British- based immigrants or children of immigrants. Some are British passport-holders. Most travel between Cyprus and this country on unrecognised passports issued by the Denktash regime.

Britain accepts these documents. Initially they were recognised as passports, but protests from the Republic of Cyprus put a stop to that. Now they are accepted as 'proof of identity', although Britain has no formal dealings with the regime that issues them. Turkish Cypriots in possession of these documents are given plain sheets of paper on which entry visas are stamped by British passport control officers. They are then admitted to this country. If Britain forbade Turkish Cypriots to enter without a valid passport issued by the Republic of Cyprus, it would make travel very difficult for most Turkish Cypriots.

Finally, there is the issue of Cyprus Turkish Airlines, which operates openly from Heathrow and Stansted with five flights a week to Ercan airport, just outside Nicosia. Ercan is not a legally recognised international airport. Because of this, international flights to Ercan are outlawed. Yet Cyprus Turkish Airlines advertises direct tourist and business flights from London to Ercan. Its planes get round the law by touching down briefly at Izmir in Turkey. Minutes after touchdown, flights are re-identified and the planes move on to Ercan. Should Britain refuse to condone this subterfuge, serious damage would be done to the Turkish Cypriot tourist trade - which is largely with this country - and to the airline.

There are, ministers say privately, humanitarian and diplomatic reasons for not turning these screws on the Denktash regime. The first is that the punishment imposed on ordinary Turkish Cypriots would be out of all proportion to the offence. The second is the fear that genuine isolation could provoke Turkey into making the occupation of northern Cyprus permanent by annexing it, thus precipitating an international crisis in an area of great instability. In addition, although this is never discussed, there is little enthusiasm in London for another major City fraud trial.

At one time, these arguments may have been of overriding importance. But in the wake of the revelations about ministerial involvement in the Nadir case, the Government's silence and inaction inevitably feeds speculation about its motives. The time has surely come to consider using sanctions to force Turkish Cyprus to return Mr Nadir.

(Photograph omitted)