Heavy cost of bringing Asil Nadir to justice

Yesterday, two decades overdue, justice caught up with the corrupt tycoon Asil Nadir, who was found guilty by an Old Bailey jury of stealing £29million from his own company in an orgy of greed and deception.

The verdict will hopefully deliver some small crumb of comfort to the tens of thousands of Polly Peck pensioners and small shareholders who lost their life savings when the firm collapsed in 1990.

It must also have been a huge relief for the Serious Fraud Office, which has presided over a string of shambolic inquiries in recent years.

Deception: Asil Nadir (centre) was found guilty of stealing £29million from his own company

Deception: Asil Nadir (centre) was found guilty of stealing £29million from his own company

But while no tears will be shed over the almost certain imprisonment of a man who has shown zero remorse for his crimes, the trial – which has cost £23million – still leaves the sourest taste.

Truly, it is a disgrace that Britain’s deeply flawed legal system allowed Nadir to claim an estimated £5million in legal aid, while living like a lord in a £23,000-a-month property in Belgravia.

So much for all those ministerial promises to de-rail the legal aid gravy train! The SFO, meanwhile, admits it ‘is not yet clear’ how much of the stolen money can be recovered. Nadir, it seems, has fleeced the British public not once but twice.

Which brings this sorry saga to the door of the Conservative Party, which received donations of £440,000 (£860,000 in today’s money) from Nadir, but is refusing to repay them on the less-than-convincing grounds that they technically came from Polly Peck.

What good it would do the reputation of our tarnished political class if the Tories dropped the excuses and offered to contribute the entire sum towards the costs to the taxpayer of, finally, holding Nadir to account.


EU madness (cont.)

It's one of the great perversities of our time that Britain is compelled by EU rules to send winter fuel payments to expats living in glorious sunshine in Spain, Portugal and Greece.

Now a further judgment by the European Court of Justice – an unelected, unaccountable body established by Brussels to enforce EU diktats – is about to make a crazy situation even worse.

For the judges have decided that it is not sufficient to make Britain hand over payments worth at least £200 each to anybody who lived in the UK until they were at least 60, and would have qualified for the benefit at home.

From this year, eligibility will be extended to anybody who has ‘a genuine and sufficient link with the UK’ – sending the cost of making the payments rocketing from £16million a year to almost £100million.

Yesterday, Iain Duncan Smith said he would fight the ‘ludicrous’ ruling by bringing in a ‘temperature criteria’ which would exclude those living in countries with warm winters.

This is entirely fair and should have been done years ago. Just don’t hold your breath that it will be acceptable to Eurocrats who have no inkling of common sense and instinctively seek to block Britain’s efforts to govern its own affairs.


Two huge challenges

With each passing day comes more deeply depressing news about the economy. Yesterday it was the publication of figures showing that, tragically, almost one million young people are not in education or training.

So, given the depth of the financial crisis, it is only sensible that George Osborne is to give up responsibility for political strategy and focus on being Chancellor.

The Prime Minister must now find an energetic replacement – ideally filling the role of party chairman – who can reconnect the Tory high command with their increasingly disillusioned grassroots.