Turkish-Cypriot businessman Asil Nadir, who returned to Britain last August after 17 years abroad, on Thursday denied theft from his failed Polly Peck business empire on charges dating back to the 1980s.

The 70-year-old tycoon pleaded not guilty at the Old Bailey to 13 charges, including theft of 33.1 million pounds and $2.5 million from the business between 1987 and 1990.

Nadir, who ran Polly Peck until it folded in 1990 with debts of 1.3 billion pounds, was a big donor to the Conservative Party. The collapse of the company shook John Major's government and led to the resignation of then Northern Ireland Minister Michael Mates, who had links to Nadir.

After the collapse, Nadir fled to northern Cyprus, which has no extradition treaty with Britain. He returned five months ago saying he wanted to clear his name.

In the early 1980s, Nadir transformed Polly Peck from an ailing textiles firm into a conglomerate that included the Del Monte fruit business and Japan's Sansui electronics firm.

Nadir, who now lives in central London's wealthy Belgravia district, surrendered his passport to authorities last year and remains on conditional bail.

He had been due to face trial on Thursday but proceedings have been delayed.

(Reporting By Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Steve Addison)