Polly Peck chief Asil Nadir flies back to face trial 17 years after fleeing UK

Fugitive tycoon Asil Nadir has returned to the UK after nearly two decades on the run.

The businessman left his home in northern Cyprus ahead of the resumption of fraud hearings in London relating to the collapse of his Polly Peck empire.

He touched down at Luton Airport at 1:29pm yesterday to be met by immigration officials who were on hand to process his documents. A grey Jaguar, with a police escort, was waiting for him.

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His lawyers were expected to hand his newly-issued British passport to Serious Fraud Office investigators.

Nadir, 69, is on 250,000 bail ahead of the 3 September hearing at the Old Bailey.

He is due to be fitted with an electronic tag as part of the court-imposed conditions and will be expected to live at a nominated address in London and report weekly to a local police station.

The 69-year-old was facing 66 counts of theft involving 34 million fraud allegations in May 1993 when he fled Britain for northern Cyprus, which has no extradition treaty with the UK.

The Tory Party donor, who presided over the collapse of Polly Peck, appeared in court the previous year but had not technically surrendered to his bail, so a subsequent arrest warrant, issued on the basis that he had breached his bail, was not valid.

Earlier this year, Nadir's legal team indicated he was willing to return to face trial, as long as he was granted bail. The Serious Fraud Office agreed not to oppose bail in return for stringent conditions.

Nadir said he felt "determined" ahead of the resumption of his courtroom battle. 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 added: "I have been a citizen of the United Kingdom for more than 30 years without a blemish on my character and I am entitled to a fair hearing.

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"The one thing I can completely rely on is the total conviction of my belief in my innocence - that is what gives me strength."

Reminded of the risk he was taking, Nadir said those who are innocent need not worry.

He said: "Innocent people in an objective court don't have worries about this thing.

"It's the last thing on my mind, I can assure you, because my innocence is sufficient security for me as long as we have an objective and unbiased venue to defend myself in a just way."

Arriving at the Mayfair property where he was staying, Nadir told reporters: "I'm delighted to be here.It's been a long time and I've missed the country."

When asked what his expectations were for his visit, he said: "Justice".

He said he hoped "past mistakes" would not count against him, adding: "I ask for a guarantee to the Turkish government that I will be treated like every other innocent person until the case was over.

"I hope that the past mistakes will not continue any longer."

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When asked if he was innocent, he added: "Absolutely … the reason I am here entirely."

He was then asked if he had any regrets about leaving the country in the first place.

He replied: "Absolutely not. What I regret was the behaviour that I was faced with because if I had not gone I don't think I would be alive."

When asked if he had any message for his creditors, he said: "I think you need to give me a little more time before we go into all that." He added: "I missed all of you, as a matter of fact."

Highs and lows of man from Del Monte

ASIL Nadir's family moved to Britain from Cyprus, where he was born, in the 1950s. After the 1974 Turkish invasion he responded to calls to expatriates to bolster the new regime and took control of Polly Peck. He subsequently set up a Northern Cyprus fruit-packing subsidiary and cardboard box factory.

Polly Peck expanded into electronics and hotel franchises and the share price hit a 35 high in 1983. The company crashed following rumours Turkish authorities were about to withdraw tax concessions but recovered in 1990 after the 1989 acquisition of Del Monte.

Unusually for a public company Nadir and his directors could make payments on the strength of a single signature and, though the company had its HQ in London, the majority of its dealings took place in Cyprus and Turkey.

By the summer of 1990 Polly Peck was being investigated by City authorities, including the Serious Fraud Office.

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Polly Peck stock crashed after Nadir proposed buying the 75 per cent he did not own and then withdrew the offer. Creditor banks dumped shares attempting to recoup their loans and demanded the paperwork on Nadir's Turkish operations.

When that was refused they forced the company into liquidation in October 1990. They were told to expect only a fraction of the 1.3 billion owed.

Nadir was prosecuted on 66 counts of fraud and theft after it emerged he secretly transferred 200 million from Polly Peck to companies in Northern Cyprus in the two years before it went out of business.

He left the UK on a private plane before the trial in 1993 and has lived in the Cypriot village of Lapithos since. Now 69 and married to 26-year-old Nur, his four grown up sons live in UK, a country he says he misses.

Nadir has said in interviews he would return to Britain to clear his name if granted bail.

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