I Miss Your Asparagus; at His Hilltop Cyprus Hideaway, Bankrupt Tycoon Asil Nadir Talks of How He Yearns to Return to Britain . . . but Is the Real Attraction the Millions He Could Claim in Legal Aid to Clear His Name over [Pounds Sterling]30m Theft Charges?
Byline: DAN ATKINSON;FARUK ZABCI
LONG before the spectacular wreckage of WorldCom and Enron, before the great dotcom disaster, there was Polly Peck - the fruit-packing firm that turned into one of the biggest bubble companies of all time.
And last week, in a hilltop villa high above the Mediterranean, with a fortified gate to keep out interlopers, Polly Peck's puppetmaster Asil Nadir was planning his return to Britain.
The return journey could see him face no fewer than 20 criminal charges arising out of the company's collapse 13 years ago.
'I am full of surprises,' Nadir told Financial Mail.
Indeed, one of those surprises is the fact that he could be entitled to tens of millions of pounds of British taxpayers' money in legal aid to fight to clear his name and reinstate the luxury London lifestyle he once enjoyed.
'Britain was like my second homeland,' Nadir said. 'I like the country. I have missed eating asparagus there.' The onetime merchant prince said he expected to be back in the UK by the middle of this month.
Nadir's business interests in the Turkish enclave of northern Cyprus, his home for more than a decade and the original powerhouse of the London-based Polly Peck empire, have shrunk in recent years.
The bank has gone, as have the hotels. And he seems sensitive about the decline of his oncefamous saturnine good looks, refusing last week to be photographed by the British Press.
But 61-year-old Nadir still owns a newspaper as well as a radio stationand a TV channel. There is money enough for an armoured limousine and for the occasional caprice, be it a glass of his favourite Krug champagne or an evening enjoying the BBC on satellite television.
Taking in the view from his villa of the boats sailing into Kyrenia harbour down the coast, Nadir might well reflect that his lifestyle is not exactly typical of an undischarged bankrupt.
But back in Britain, however, that is precisely what he is.
Not only does that protect him from civil claims approaching [pounds sterling]500 million relating to the Polly Peck debacle, it means that within a few weeks Nadir could be running up a fortune in legal aid costs.
Nadir is unquestionably entitled to free representation, but legal aid would not be footing the bill simply for his defence against theft charges totalling [pounds sterling]30 million.
Before his trial begins, Nadir plans an 'abuse of process' case, claiming that a fair trial was made impossible by at least seven major alleged pieces of wrongdoing by prosecutors, including copying 'privileged' correspondence with Nadir's lawyers.
'Each of these seven so-called counts against the Serious Fraud Office could turn into a mini trial in its own right,' one former senior prosecutor told Financial