Polly Peck was the success story of the 1980s. What started as a small hosiery company became an industry giant, with interests in many household names. Hotels, newspapers, Sansui electronics and Del Monte fruit all had connections to the Polly Peck empire. Shareholders saw returns of up to 1,288 times that which they had originally invested. But the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) suspected that an illegal share support operation was in progress, and on 20 September 1990 it raided the offices of South Audley Management, which represented the private interests of Asil Nadir, the founder.
When news of the raid got out, the share price plummeted as traders started panic-selling all their Polly Peck stock. Eventually Polly Peck collapsed, and in 1993 Nadir fled to northern Cyprus among a deluge of publicity, surrounded by the arrests of his advisers for crimes that included money laundering. Michael Mates MP, secretary of state for Northern Ireland, resigned because of his relationship with Nadir. Michael Allcock, formerly an investigator for the Inland Revenue who was working with the SFO, was jailed for receiving £150,000 and a holiday. The case affected all parts of the food chain.
Nadir has remained in Cyprus for seven years in a self-imposed exile. However, he now plans to return to the UK and has formally requested that his case be dropped due to the provisions under Article 6 of the Human Rights Act, which require that proceedings be brought within a reasonable time. It remains to be seen whether seven years is considered to be reasonable and if the fact that the exile is self-imposed is taken into account.