A FUGITIVE business tycoon who fled the UK from North Dorset returned yesterday after 17 years in exile.

Asil Nadir, 69, took off in a six-seater Piper Seneca aircraft in the middle of the night from Compton Abbas airfield in May 1993.

Yesterday he returned to British soil to face trial over the alleged theft of £34 million.

At the time of his escape, he was on bail after being charged with stealing from investors in his firm Polly Peck.

Nadir arrived at Luton Airport yesterday to be met by police. He is now on bail of £250,000 ahead of a court appearance on September 3.

The plane he boarded in Dorset flew to an airfield in northern France, where he took a private jet to northern Cyprus – which has no extradition treaty with the UK. He has been there ever since and has new business interests.

The tycoon told a national newspaper that he was returning to clear his name.

“I am very happy that what I have been striving for for many years is finally coming to fruition – to be able to go to England without any unnecessary threat of arrest and to be given the chance to put my case,” he said.

In 1994 – a year after the dead-of-night flight from Compton Abbas – the airfield’s owner, Clive Hughes, told the Daily Echo that he had piloted the fugitive and his friend Peter Diamond.

Mr Hughes said: “When I was informed who it was later I was shocked. If there was any wrongdoing on Asil’s part I wouldn’t have done it, but Peter, being a good friend, didn’t tell me who it was and I didn’t ask any questions.

“I didn’t have to register my passengers legally and it was just a favour for a friend.”