Fugitive Cyprus tycoon returns to Britain to face trial

26th August 2010, Comments 0 comments

One of Britain's most high-profile fugitives returned from northern Cyprus Thursday to face justice after 17 years' exile amid claims he stole millions of pounds from his collapsed firm.

Former Polly Peck boss Asil Nadir, 69, touched down after flying via Turkey from the Turkish-controlled north of Cyprus, which has no extradition treaty with Britain.

Shortly after arriving at Luton airport north of London, he climbed into a Jaguar car and was driven away from the runway.

Nadir has chosen to return to Britain and face charges after being assured he could remain on bail during his trial.

In its heyday, Polly Peck was one of Britain's biggest companies with interests in sectors from textiles to electronics, but it collapsed in 1990.

Three years later, Nadir was charged with 66 counts of theft involving 34 million pounds. He fled before his trial but denies any wrongdoing.

Nadir said he had faced an "injustice" but insisted there had been "no deal" to pave the way for his return to Britain.

"I feel it is time now to have a closure to this in a most acceptable way," he told Sky News television en route to Britain. "It cannot continue in this manner."

In an interview with The Times newspaper, he added that he was in a "determined" mood ahead of his return.

"I am very happy that what I have been striving for for many years is finally coming to fruition -- to be able to go to England without any unnecessary threat of arrest and to be given the chance to put my case," he said.

The tycoon arrived on a jet belonging to Turkish airline Onur Air which was carrying a small number of passengers including his 26-year-old wife Nur, lawyers and members of his personal staff.

A spokesman for Britain's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) told AFP Nadir was to be met by border officials at the airport.

"I imagine he will then go to an address in London," he added. Nadir is expected to stay at a house in the plush Mayfair district of central London.

"During the course of today his lawyers will surrender his passport to the SFO," the SFO spokesman added.

Nadir is due to appear at London's Central Criminal Court, known as the Old Bailey, on September 3 for a preliminary hearing when a date for his full trial is likely to be set.

The trial itself will probably be lengthy and take place in 2011.

A court decided last month he would not face arrest if he came back but would be subject to a number of bail conditions.

These include Nadir giving officials advance notice of his arrival in Britain, depositing a security of 250,000 pounds (around 300,000 euros, 390,000 dollars) with the court and agreeing to wear a tag allowing police to monitor his movements.

Nadir had been a donor to the Conservative Party before he fled Britain. The party was in power when he left the country and came back into office in May this year as part of a coalition government.

In 1993 a minister in then prime minister John Major's government, Michael Mates, resigned over his links with Nadir.

Mates, who once gave Nadir a watch inscribed with the legend "Don't let the buggers get you down", had written to the attorney general complaining about the way Nadir's case had been handled.

© 2010 AFP

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