Friday, 27 August 2010

Polly Peck International ... the law of serious and complex fraud

Asil Nadir - formerly Chief Executive of Polly Peck International - has returned to the U.K. after 17 years living in Northern Cyprus.  In the 1980s he appeared to be an enormous business success story as his policy of "growth by acquisition" took place on an international scale.  This was largely done by "rights issues" through which company capital was raised from investors eager to make profits and many did.  The major steps in the history of Polly Peck are summarised here.  Polly Peck's capital grew to some £1.7 bn at its peak and there were over 200 subsidiary companies.  In September 1990, there was a raid organised by the Serious Fraud Office on South Audley Management (a company which managed Nasir's family interests).  This caused a run on Polly Peck shares.  Polly Peck ceased trading in September 1990 and went into administration the same month.  Eventually, some 66 charges of theft and false accounting were brought against Asil Nadir.  However, he fled to Cyprus in 1993 and only returned to the U.K. in August 2010.

At this stage it is far from clear (a) on what basis he has returned to the UK and (b) how this matter will develop.  So far, any suggestion of a "deal" between Asil Nadir and the Serious Fraud Office has been denied.  He is due at the Old Bailey in early September.  Clearly, any prosecution will face difficulties due to lapse of time and the possible difficulties of presenting a complex financial case to a jury.  The case will be watched with interest.

In 2005, views about serious fraud trials were put forward by the Criminal Bar Association which, at that time, wished to retain jury trials and considered that juries are well able to understand the issues of dishonesty which lie at the heart of fraud cases - see here.   The Criminal Justice Act 2003 s.43 was enacted to provide for non jury trial in serious fraud cases but this has not been implemented.

Other links of interest:

Events in 1990 as reported by the Financial Times - here
Is there a case for a unified serious fraud prosecution office - Barrister Magazine
Trial by jury struggling to survive - Barrister Magazine
Law relating to serious fraud - Wikicrimeline
Non-jury trial - CPS

Addendum 4th September: Nadir appeared at the Old Bailey and was granted bail subject to some ten conditions.  An argument by Nadir that the prosecution give details of all the charges within 28 days was dismissed and the judge granted them until 3rd December.   See The Independent 4th September.  Nadir next appears in court on 15th October.

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