Asil Nadir, the former Polly Peck International Plc chief executive who fled Britain in 1993 following claims of fraud, was accused at a trial in London of stealing 150 million pounds ($233.4 million) from the company.
The amount, revealed by prosecutors on the first day of a four-month trial in London, is more than four times the figure cited by the Serious Fraud Office since the case began nearly two decades ago. Nadir, 70, and associates withdrew the money from the now-defunct electronics and food-packaging firm’s U.K. bank accounts and funneled it through companies in Switzerland and the Bahamas between 1987 and 1990, prosecutors said.
Nadir “wielded very considerable power” over the company’s operations and management, prosecutor Philip Shears said at London’s Old Bailey criminal court. “We say he abused that power and helped himself to tens of millions of pounds of PPI’s money.”
When London-based Polly Peck collapsed in 1990, its administrators found more than 700 million pounds owed to creditors was unrecoverable from units of the company, which Nadir built up during the 1980s by expanding into areas such as electronics, hotels and an acquisition of the Del Monte (DLM) fruit brand. Nadir agreed to return to the U.K. in 2010 to face fraud claims nearly 20 years after fleeing.
The SFO accused Nadir of 13 counts of theft totaling about 34 million pounds, using a selection of “sample” transfers. Nadir denies the charges.
Secret Share Purchases
Prosecutors said Nadir stole from the company’s accounts at National Westminster Bank Plc and Midland Bank Plc through at least 70 transfers, and that the money was used to secretly buy shares in Polly Peck and other companies. He is also accused of using the money to repay loans, make payments to Nadir family trusts and pay companies controlled by himself and his mother.
Nadir returned to London from Turkish-controlled Northern Cyprus in August 2010 to face trial, a month after a U.K. judge said that if Nadir did so he would be granted bail. He agreed to be fitted with an electronic security tag and to remain in the capital. The former executive was also ordered to comply with a curfew and check-in weekly at a police station.
While his lawyers had sought to have the trial earlier, a judge said it was unrealistic for the prosecution to be expected to re-compile a 17-year-old case on short notice. His lawyers later complained a senior U.K. prosecutor leaked information to the press. The SFO has denied that claim.
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