LONDON – Turkish Cypriot tycoon Asil Nadir was found guilty of theft Monday in relation to the collapse of his Polly Peck business empire, one of a series of debacles that focused public attention on the corporate greed of 1980s Britain.
Polly Peck was an low-profile British textile firm until Nadir took over in 1980, turning the modest business into a vehicle for a wave of acquisitions, including Del Monte's fresh fruit operations and Japan's Sansui Electric Co. The stock went through the roof and Nadir became one of Britain's richest men.
But the success story turned sour after investigators began probing irregularities in Nadir family trusts. The tycoon denied charges he had stolen from Polly Peck to line his pockets, but the company's share price collapsed and the company itself went under in 1990.
The collapse was deeply embarrassing for the then-ruling Conservative Party, to which Nadir was a major donor, and it made a fugitive of the tycoon, who fled the country for his native north Cyprus only months before he was due to stand trial.
The Polly Peck story was one of several corporate scandals that showed up the dark side of Britain's freewheeling 1980s; others included the 1991 collapse of BCCI and the demise of the Maxwell media empire.
Nadir spent nearly two decades as a fugitive from British justice, but he made the dramatic decision to return to London in 2010, saying he wanted to clear his name. Legal analysts speculated that so much time had elapsed that a prosecution would be too complex to pull off successfully — noting that much of the evidence had been lying in archives for two decades and that key witnesses might be too old to testify.
If that was Nadir's gambit, it backfired. A jury at London's Central Criminal Court found him guilty of three counts of theft and not guilty of a fourth count of theft.
The 71-year-old tycoon looked shocked as the verdicts were announced. His wife Nur, 28, sat at the side of the dock.
Jurors are still deliberating a further nine counts of theft.