Fugitive tycoon Nadir finally in British dock 17 years on
Cypriot tycoon Asil Nadir, one of Britain's most high-profile fugitives, finally appeared in court Friday after 17 years on the run to face claims he stole a fortune from his collapsed firm Polly Peck.
The 69-year-old appeared in the dock at the Old Bailey, England's central criminal court, having agreed to return from northern Cyprus to face the charges against him.
A clerk asked him: "Are you Asil Nadir?", to which he replied "Yes, I am" -- words British prosecutors have waited since 1993 to hear.
The court was told that the 66 charges against him alleging theft of 34 million pounds (52 million dollars, 41 million euros) from his Polly Peck empire may be reduced to 15 counts.
"The trial has started. It has been adjourned a very long time, but technically it has started," said Nadir's lawyer William Clegg.
"Mr Nadir is anxious to have this case heard as soon as possible."
Nadir was remanded on conditional bail to another hearing on October 15. His trial date was provisionally set for October 2011.
Judge David Bean told Nadir that his bail was being renewed, but set a midnight to 6:00 am curfew and said he would have to be electronically tagged.
A British and Turkish citizen, Nadir has surrendered his passports.
Nadir flew back to Britain last month with his 26-year-old wife, lawyers and members of his staff after a London court ruled in July he could remain free on bail before and during his trial.
In its heyday, Nadir's conglomerate Polly Peck was one of Britain's biggest companies, with interests in sectors from textiles to electronics.
The tycoon became a darling of the London stock market in the 1980s as he drove Polly Peck's transformation from a small textile firm into a major company through a series of takeovers.
The company entered the FTSE 100 stock exchange list of Britain's largest firms in 1989 -- but in 1990 it collapsed.
Three years later, Nadir was charged with the 66 counts of theft.
But before his trial started, he fled to the Turkish-controlled north of Cyprus, where he was born and which has no extradition treaty with Britain. He has extensive business interests there, particularly in the media.
© 2010 AFP