Published Date: 26 August 2010 By Chris Bond
ASIL Nadir touched down on British soil yesterday ahead of the resumption of his courtroom battle after spending nearly two decades on the run.
Back in May 1993, he was facing 66 counts of theft involving £34m fraud allegations, relating to the collapse of his Polly Peck empire, and fled Britain to northern Cyprus. The Cypriot-born businessman appeared in court the previous year but had not technically surrendered to his bail, so a subsequent arrest warrant, issued on the basis that he had breached his bail, was not valid.
However, earlier this year Nadir's legal team indicated he was willing to return to face trial, as long as he was granted bail. The Serious Fraud Office agreed not to oppose bail in return for stringent
conditions ahead of his hearing next month at the Old Bailey.
But how had he been able to evade trial for so long? One of the key reasons is that the UK has no extradition treaty with northern Cyprus, along with the fact that the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) has been in diplomatic and economic isolation since it was founded in 1983.
Nadir, though, is not the only fugitive from British justice who made a beeline for northern Cyprus. For many years criminals hid in Spain, on the so-called "Costa del Crime," but in 1985 an extradition treaty was signed with Britain and a number of people were sent back in Britain. As a result, northern Cyprus was seen as a potential sanctuary and a number of criminals holed up there in the late '90s. But during the past decade there has been a shift in Turkish Cypriot attitudes towards Britain and the West. The TRNC offered to sign an extradition treaty with the UK but the British Government refused, because it does not have diplomatic relations with them and did not want to offend Cyprus or Greece.
Despite this, the police in northern Cyprus have made it clear that criminals are not welcome and the government has said it will work closely with British police where a criminal has fled to the country and there is a valid extradition warrant. In 2007, drug dealer Miran Thakrar fled to northern Cyprus after he and his brother committed a triple killing in Hertfordshire. The police not only detained him and escorted him back to Britain but sent over officers to testify at his trial and Thakrar was later jailed for life.
Extradition expert Anand Doobay, a partner with leading legal firm Peters & Peters, says problems can arise when there aren't extradition treaties in place. "Where the UK has an extradition arrangement with another country it means that it has to deal with each request. Without that it is done on a case by case basis. But we don't have a general extradition agreement with northern Cyprus and this is the difficulty the UK has had in the case of Asil Nadir."
The UK has two different types of extradition arrangements with other countries. The first, known as category one, involves EU countries and is based around European Arrest Warrants. The second, category two, includes all other countries. "There are distinctions between those category two countries in that some have to provide evidence when making a request," explains Mr Doobay.
Although not all countries do. "The most controversial of those countries which don't have to supply evidence is the US and some commentators have said there is an imbalance in the UK's treaty with the US because any request from our Government has to show a probable cause."
One of the most contentious cases in recent years has been that of British computer hacker Gary McKinnon. The 43 year-old, who has Asperger's Syndrome, is accused of hacking US military computer systems, although he denies this, saying he was seeking evidence of UFOs. David Cameron has publicly condemned plans to extradite Mr McKinnon to the US – where he faces up to 60 years in jail – and raised the issue with President Obama during his visit to America last month.
Mr Doobay says that since 9/11 the number of countries that the UK doesn't have an extradition agreement with has shrunk. "We recently reached an extradition arrangement with the UAE and there are on-going discussions with countries like Algeria and Libya. But the UK will want assurances that anyone returned to a country will be guaranteed a fair trial before it enters into any agreement."
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Last Updated: 26 August 2010 10:48 PM