Former head of Polly Peck International, Asil Nadir, has finally been found guilty of stealing almost £29m from the company, after avoiding justice for almost 20 years. The business was once a huge FTSE 100 Company, but collapsed after a Serious Fraud Office investigation into suspicious dealings – initially looking at insider trading, but eventually finding Nadir’s thefts from company accounts. Nadir then escaped from the country in 1993 while awaiting trial via a Dorset airfield, flying to Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus, which had no extradition agreement with the UK. He claimed that he was not confident of a fair trial and had no option to leave the country, but returned all these years later in an effort to clear his name; he maintained his innocence, and believed that the SFO had caused the spectacular crash of his international empire.
Nadir was convicted of 10 counts of stealing amounts ranging from $500,000 to £5.15m and acquitted of three others. Some thefts were used to buy shares in the company to prop up its value; others were simply for personal gain. Prosecutors maintained that these were merely sample charges, with the true scale of the theft reaching as high as £150m. The defence argued that for all the monies withdrawn, equal amounts were paid back in Turkish lira by his elderly mother in Northern Cyprus, but this was scorned by Philip Shears QC, prosecuting, who suggested that this would equate to a mountain of cash 300 times higher than Nelson’s Column.
The trial finally puts to an end one of the longest-running sagas of business fraud, and is a welcome victory for the SFO. However, Nadir is expected to appeal against the verdict.