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June 26, 2012 2:54 pm
Asil Nadir, the Turkish Cypriot businessman accused of stealing £146m from his Polly Peck conglomerate, has told a jury that he left Britain for northern Cyprus a “broken man” in 1993 because his hope of a “fair trial was in tatters”.
Mr Nadir broke his silence on Tuesday, 19 years after he left Britain, as he took to the witness box in the Old Bailey to defend himself against allegations that he stole money from Polly Peck in financial transfers. He denies the charges.
“By the time I left the United Kingdom, I was a totally broken man,” he told the jury. “My health was in tatters, my hope of a fair trial was in tatters, I had zero hope of receiving a fair trial.”
Mr Nadir left the country shortly before his trial and returned only in 2010, the court has heard.
Philip Hackett QC, defending Mr Nadir, asked his client why he had left Britain.
Mr Nadir told the jury that by that time he faced civil litigation and had been bankrupted, so could no longer afford lawyers. This was to the detriment of his health. He also feared that his mail was “being tampered with”.
“I was a broken man. I had numerous ailments,” he said in evidence as he was watched by his second wife Nur from the back of the court.
Mr Nadir also told the jury of an extraordinary court hearing in March 1993 shortly before he left Britain in which claims were made in open court that there had been an alleged plot, involving Mr Nadir, to bribe the then trial judge, Sir Richard Tucker.
Mr Nadir told the jury he knew nothing of the allegations until they were aired in court. He told the jury that at the time of the hearing in 1993 he had “reacted with astonishment, fear”, adding that the judge “was frightened, you could tell from his face”.
The current Old Bailey trial has already been told that the 1993 bribery allegations were subsequently investigated and found to be totally untrue.
Mr Nadir also told the court that after this hearing in March 1993, his documents and legal papers were seized by his trustee in bankruptcy in April 1993, leaving him “a broken man with no hope”. Shortly afterwards he left Britain, in early May 1993.
In earlier testimony, Mr Nadir told the court how he had moved to Britain with his Turkish Cypriot family in the 1960s and built up his multi million pound business.
He bought a small textile company called Polly Peck and set about expanding it. By the mid 1990s, after the acquisition of Del Monte, it was one of the three biggest entities dealing in fresh produce in the world, the court heard.
Mr Nadir told the court that Polly Peck was not insolvent when its board placed it into administration in October 1990 following a raid by the Serious Fraud Office on a separate company linked to him, after which Polly Peck’s share price collapsed.
“It had a tremendous future,” Mr Nadir told the court, adding: “And this attitude was not only one that I share, it was shared by all the top brokers, bankers and investors in this country and worldwide.”
He added that at the time, he had secured more than £60m in finance from three top Turkish banks on the instigation of the president of Turkey, but the Polly Peck board was not prepared to reconsider their decision.
The Serious Fraud Office, which is prosecuting the case, has alleged that Mr Nadir, 71, had “abused” his power as chairman and chief executive of Polly Peck, a company he helped to build into an international business.
The case against Mr Nadir alleges that he “helped himself to tens of millions of pounds” of Polly Peck’s money in transfers amounting to more than £146m. He faces 13 specimen counts of theft amounting to £34m between 1987 and 1990.
Mr Nadir used millions of pounds “stolen” from Polly Peck secretly to buy shares to support the conglomerate’s stock price, to purchase expensive properties for himself and relatives and to pay for his horseracing interests, the prosecution has told the jury.
Prosecutors told the jury earlier in the trial that a number of offshore companies were used by Mr Nadir to carry out the covert purchase of Polly Peck International shares and options.
A “primary purpose” was to bolster the company’s share price, which “enhanced the appearance of PPI as a successful company”, the court heard.
The jury was told by prosecutors that Mr Nadir used £4m of “stolen” money to buy property for himself and his relatives, including £2m that was put towards a country mansion worth £7m at Burley on the Hill in Rutland.
The trial, which has lasted five months so far, continues.
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