AFP – Turkish-Cypriot tycoon Asil Nadir, formerly one of Britain’s most notorious fugitives, told a court on Tuesday that he had fled the country because he was “a broken man” who saw no hope of a fair trial.
Nadir, one of the highest-profile businessmen in Britain in the 1980s and early 1990s, denies stealing £150mn ($234mn, 188mn euros) from his business empire.
He was arrested in 1990 after his company Polly Peck International went into administration with debts of £550 million, and charged with more than 60 counts of theft.
Three years later, he fled for Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus, which does not have an extradition treaty with Britain. He returned in August 2010 in a dramatic bid to clear his name.
Explaining his decision to turn fugitive, he told London’s Old Bailey Court at the opening of his defence case: “I was a totally broken man. My health was in tatters, my hope of a fair trial was in tatters. I had zero hope of receiving a fair trial.”
Nadir, 71, was formerly a darling of the London stock market, having transformed Polly Peck from a small textile firm into a company worth £2 billion with interests in sectors ranging from textiles to electronics.
Prosecutors say his years as a fugitive are evidence of dishonesty, and that when administrators went to Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus to recover assets, they found the missing money had vanished into a “black hole”.
Nadir denies theft, but said there was no dispute that the money had been sent to a subsidiary company, Unipac, based in northern Cyprus, where he has extensive business interests.
This was in order to obtain better exchange rates, he claimed, as he also denied any involvement in an alleged attempt to bribe a High Court judge.
Nadir, wearing a blue suit and yellow tie, gave evidence as his wife Nur, 28, watched from the back of the court.
He remains on conditional bail and lives at a house in London’s exclusive Mayfair district.