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Conservative minister Michael Mates resigned in 1993, following persistent press coverage of his close links with Asil Nadir. (Picture: politicalscrapbook.net).

He’d probably say that handling stolen goods is a crime for which the penalty is 14 years’ imprisonment.

The Conservative Party here in the UK is continuing the tradition of financial double-standards for which it is becoming – justly – infamous, by refusing to hand back an alleged £440,000 of stolen money that was donated by convicted tycoon Asil Nadir in the 1990s.

The 71-year-old businessman was formerly head of Polly Peck International, a company that at one time owned the Del Monte fruit juice company whose most famous campaign featured the line “The man from Del Monte, he say ‘yes’!” (that’s the connection with our headline).

Polly Peck expanded rapidly in the 1980s to become an FTSE 100 company, but collapsed even more rapidly in 1990, leaving £1.3 billion worth of debts.

Asil Nadir fled the country in 1993, to escape 70 criminal charges of false accounting and the theft of £29 million from Polly Peck. He returned to fight his case in court during 2010 but was found guilty and sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment on August 23.

The connection with the Conservative Party is that, between 1985 and 1990, Asil Nadir donated hundreds of thousands of pounds to Tory funds. The Conservatives have refused to hand it back, insisting that it was received in good faith from a legitimate business.

The problem with that, for the Tories, is we now know enough to believe that it wasn’t.

The Labour Party has called for the money to be returned, and that call has been supported by Lord McAlpine, who was Conservative Party treasurer when the donations were made. He described the money as “tainted”.

A BBC report quoted him as follows: “The money was not Asil Nadir’s to give, although we thought it was at the time.

“Therefore the Tory party has a duty to return it. It will speak volumes about the character of the modern Tory party if they don’t do the right thing.”

Former Tory chairman Norman Fowler made it clear in 2010 that “we will return the money if it was stolen”.

But now the Conservative Party is trying to weasel out of handing back the cash, saying it never received personal donations from Nadir, and has no evidence that the money received via his business interests was stolen.

I don’t think that matters.

The man who was treasurer at the time, and therefore took delivery of the cash, clearly does believe the donation was unlawful.

The Theft Act 1968, section 22, states that a person is guilty of handling stolen goods if, believing them to be stolen, he dishonestly undertakes or assists in their retention, removal or disposal, by or for the benefit of another person, or if he arranges to do so. Penalty: 14 years’ imprisonment on indictment.

Reference to stolen goods includes goods which have been stolen by theft, blackmail or deception. It includes goods, whether in their original state or not, and other goods which represent the stolen goods in the hands of the handler.

Considering the evidence, I reckon we only need to see one of the 17,000+ people, who was formerly employed by Polly Peck or one of its subsidiaries, come forward and make a complaint to the police that the Conservative Party has received stolen goods in the form of this money, and the leaders of the ruling party in the British government will be facing the prospect of 14 years in jail.

Would anybody like to come forward and lay charges?