How hard is Cameron thinking about whether to pay back the £440,000 donations to the Tories, made between 1985-1990, by Asil Nadir, now convicted of stealing from his own businesses during virtually the same period?
Half the donations came from Polly Peck International, which Nadir was milking of cash from the mid 80s.The other half came from Unipac Packaging, the Nadir group’s North Cypriot “banker”. This is the dodgy business where the SFO found documents, apparently forged, to support Nadir’s claim that his mother had paid billions of Turkish lire in cash to compensate for what he took out. Both Unipac and PPI – Nadir’s main company – were run by him autocratically and payments were made on his signature alone.
Cameron could add to any concerns he has about victims, the UK Cypriot businessman I acted for at the Old Bailey around 1993-4 who stood surety for Nadir, offering a sizeable chunk of the required £3.5M bail, to guarantee his attendance at trial. When Nadir disappeared in a private plane from Compton Abbas airfield, in May 1993, the burden fell on the surety to show why his cash should not be forfeit.
Judges have said: “The real pull of (such) bail is to cause the defendant to attend trial rather than subject his friends to pain and discomfort”
Not in this case.
In fact, the pilot who flew Nadir, proved on appeal from his later conviction for perverting justice, that by an error, Nadir was on unconditional bail from 1992. Whilst hoping, though doubting, that the surety got his bail money back and hadn’t lost his business in the meantime, many of Nadir’s lenders and investors lost everything. They have recovered about 2.9 pence in the £.
Cameron is hanging onto the relatively small (in Tory terms) sum of just less than half a million, whilst Nadir was convicted of stealing £30M, but victims may well to come forward over the next few weeks, to tell journalists what a difference to their straitened circumstances even that level of recompense would make.
Cameron has had plenty of elders’ advice. Added to John Major’s and then Party Chair Norman Fowler’s assurance in 1993 that if the money were stolen it would paid back, are this week’s assertion by former Tory Treasurer, Lord McAlpine that it “shames the Conservative Party if they hang onto it”. In addition, Mrs Thatcher’s former advisers Bernard Ingham and Charles Powell both say that she would have wanted rid of this stolen cash. In the background is an old letter from administrators, Touche Ross, apparently telling the Tories exactly how they calculate that at least £365,000 of the money was dishonest.
An argument that dishonest money was received in good faith only convincingly counters the duty to pay back if the recipient did something in return- earned the money. A gratuitous donation should surely go back to the victims now that it is clear that any money paid by Nadir after 1985 will have come from his crimes.
Nor can the generation gap save Cameron from his responsibilities since he personally worked for Central Office from 1987. Who knows who paid his wages.
And who knows what favours Nadir thought he might call in, returning as he did just after the 2010 election brought his erstwhile beneficiaries to power. Pie in the sky as that may have been, Cameron should understand that he needs to distance himself – and politics – from the money of a convicted thief and that, albeit in quite a different way than Nadir may have imagined, for Cameron this is payback time.
Vera Baird QC is the Labour Candidate for Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner and former Solicitor General