- Associated Press - Thursday, August 26, 2010

LONDON (AP) — A tycoon who fled Britain almost two decades ago following the spectacular collapse of his business empire returned to London Thursday to face charges of fraud.

It was the first step in Turkish Cypriot businessman Asil Nadir’s attempt to turn the page on a 1980s boom-and-bust story that tarnished the reputation of the ruling Conservative Party — to which he was a major donor — and made him a fugitive from British justice for 17 years.

Mr. Nadir arrived at London’s Luton Airport at about 1:30 p.m, local time, making his way to his new home in the wealthy London neighborhood of Mayfair shortly thereafter.

Speaking earlier Thursday from his plane in Turkey, where he was stopping on his way to London, Mr. Nadir told Sky News television that he wanted to “go back and hopefully get a closure to this sad affair.”

Mr. Nadir, 69, never faced the prospect of being taken back to Britain by force: The self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus where he’d fled to isn’t recognized by Britain and has no extradition treaty with Britain.

Britain’s Serious Fraud Office said it had worked out bail conditions with Mr. Nadir’s lawyers — including a 250,000 pound (approximately $390,000) surety, a ban on travel and the requirement that he hand over his passport and other travel documents.

The office said Mr. Nadir would also be fitted with an electronic monitoring device and barred from coming within the vicinity of an airport, seaport, or London’s St. Pancras station, the terminus of Eurostar trains from Paris.

Asked why he was giving up a comfortable life in northern Cyprus with his 26-year-old wife to face trial, Mr. Nadir told Sky that he was eager to see justice done.

“My innocence is sufficient security for me,” he said.

Mr. Nadir, the son of a wealthy Cypriot, came to England in the 1960s and set up an east London clothing company which grew into an international conglomerate.

In 1980, he took control of the ailing British textile company Polly Peck and used the firm as his stock market vehicle for expansion. The company’s stock price multiplied as Mr. Nadir went on an acquisitions binge, snapping up Del Monte’s fresh fruit operations and Japan’s Sansui Electric Co.

Mr. Nadir became one of Britain’s richest people in the process, but his company’s share price collapsed after investigators began probing irregularities in Nadir family trusts.

Mr. Nadir denied charges he had stolen from Polly Peck to line his pockets, insisting he was the victim of a Greek-inspired political conspiracy. His company filed for bankruptcy protection in late 1990, hundreds of millions of dollars in debt.

Mr. Nadir fled the country in May of 1993, four months before he was scheduled to face trial, escaping to France in a private jet before making his way back to northern Cyprus.

The scandal over Polly Peck’s collapse was one in a series of British business debacles that focused attention on the financial freewheeling and corporate greed of the 1980s. Others included the 1991 BCCI banking scandal and the demise of Maxwell media empire.

The affair also had serious repercussions for the Conservative Party when its links to Mr. Nadir were revealed. Michael Mates, an aide to then-Prime Minister John Major, was forced to resign after it was shown he’d given Mr. Nadir a watch inscribed with a profane reference to the tycoon’s accusers.

Speaking to Sky, Mr. Nadir declined to say whether he would support the Conservative Party in the future.

“We’ve got a little injustice to sort out first,” he said.

Any possible trial is expected to be complex. A spokesman for the Serious Fraud Office said that while the case was some 20 years old and that the files had since been consigned to the archive, some of those involved in the initial investigation would be tapped to provide “direct, hands-on knowledge.”

Mr. Nadir is scheduled to appear at London’s Central Criminal Court on Sept. 3 for an initial hearing.

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