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Nadir’s jail sentence ends 20-year international fraud probe

Turkish Cypriot tycoon Asil Nadir gestures as he arrives at the Old Bailey court in London in this photograph taken Feb. 10, 2012.


Asil Nadir, the Turkish Cypriot businessman convicted of stealing £29-million, ($46-million) was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Thursday at the Old Bailey.

Mr. Nadir's "day of reckoning … finally has arrived," Mr. Justice Holroyde said during his remarks as he sentenced the businessman to two consecutive five-year terms. He will have to serve at least five years before being eligible for release.

Mr. Nadir, 71, was guilty of "theft on a grand scale" and "a wealthy man who stole out of pure greed," the judge said, adding that the fugitive businessman had shown no remorse for his crimes.

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Mr. Nadir's sentence brings to a conclusion not only an extraordinary seven-month trial, but an investigation and prosecution that has been 20 years in the making, featuring political scandal, bribery allegations and, most notoriously, Mr. Nadir's flight to Northern Cyprus – which does not share an extradition treaty with the U.K. – four months before his original trial was scheduled in September 1993.

A household name in the 1980s and 1990s, Mr. Nadir almost single-handedly transformed a textile company based in London's East End into one of the best known multinational conglomerates of the era, Polly Peck International. He boasted that the share price over the period had increased 1,300 times.

But when the company collapsed in 1990 following Mr. Nadir's arrest, administrators found a black hole. A jury convicted Mr. Nadir this week of 10 counts of theft totalling £29-million from Polly Peck between 1987 and 1990.

"The company's success was in many ways your success. But the company's money was not your money. You knew that. You nonetheless helped yourself to it. You committed theft on a grand scale," Mr. Justice Holroyde said during his sentencing remarks.

"You blame others for the collapse of PPI, but the evidence makes me sure that your conduct in committing those 10 thefts, and in seeking to cover them up, was at least one of the substantial causes of it. With that collapse, of course, came financial loss to all who had invested in PPI, not just large financial institutions, but private investors and persons whose pension funds were partly invested in PPI shares."

The judge said he had taken into account the fact that Mr. Nadir had voluntarily returned from Northern Cyprus in 2010; his age, and a heart condition; his previous good character; and his role in building up Polly Peck, which created jobs. These mitigating factors meant that Mr. Nadir's sentence was reduced by two years.

The judge added that Mr. Nadir also benefited from a recent change in the law that means theft carries a maximum seven-year sentence, reduced from 10 at the time when Mr. Nadir committed his crimes.

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The former Polly Peck chief, dressed in a dark suit and lime-green tie, showed little emotion as he was shown from the dock, and he thanked the judge. During the proceedings he nodded and smiled to his supporters in the public gallery, and briefly spoke to his 28-year-old wife, Nur.

Outside the courtroom she told waiting reporters and camera crews that her "husband is an innocent man." She added: "Having faith in the British justice and legal system, we will continue with our efforts to rectify the wrong."

Mr. Nadir must appear again at the Old Bailey on Sept. 27 in a hearing to determine what will happen to his assets.

The Serious Fraud Office, which prosecuted the case, will seek an order for him to pay their £3-million legal costs, plus compensation to the administrators of Polly Peck. The SFO has not asked for a confiscation order, the court heard on Thursday.

Creditor claims against Mr. Nadir total £374-million, according to the trustee in his bankruptcy, who has asked the Conservative Party to return the £440,000 donation made by Mr. Nadir through Polly Peck in the 1990s.

The claim submitted by Polly Peck is £262-million and only £2.8-million of Mr. Nadir's assets have been traced so far.

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The SFO declined to comment on the sentencing but said on Wednesday that his conviction was a "remarkable achievement."

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