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Asil Nadir fraud conviction unlikely as SFO faces 'evidential nightmare'

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Asil Nadir returned to the UK on Wednesday, 17 years after fleeing the country on a private jet to evade prosecution on 66 fraud-related charges.

Nadir stands accused of secretly transferring around £200m from Polly Peck, a FTSE 100 listed company, to entities in northern Cyprus in the two years before the firm went out of business in 1990.

Legal experts say the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) faces a "prosecutorial nightmare" convicting the 69-year-old of fraud, however, and believe his highly-paid lawyers stand a good chance of convincing the court to dismiss the case on the ground that too much time has lapsed.

Simon Airey, corporate fraud partner at law firm DLA Piper, said: "With the passage of time, evidence is likely to have been lost or confused. Memories will have faded, witnesses may have died, people who worked on the case might have moved on. The practical difficulty of reconstructing the case to the appropriate standard to convince the jury could be immensely problematical.

"You've got to remember that even if there is a whole host of documentary evidence that is available, it would not be surprising if documents have been lost or certain data has become corrupted. A lot will turn on how well the evidence was prepared before Mr Nadir left the country and how well it has been preserved since then."

As the notes, many of the key witnesses in the case are now dead or judged too infirm to give evidence.

"I find it quite difficult to believe that the SFO have a firm resolve to pursue the case," the paper quotes one unnamed fraud lawyer with experience in SFO cases. "Getting this case off the ground would be a nightmare." It quotes another unnamed lawyer as speculating that, given his age, Nadir would not have returned to the UK if he believed there was a "realistic possibility" that he would be convicted.

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