Octav Botnar

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Octov Botnar
Born (1913-10-21)October 21, 1913
Czernowitz, Bukovina, Austria-Hungary [now Chernivtsi, Ukraine]
Died July 11, 1998(1998-07-11) (aged 84)
Villars-sur-Ollon, Switzerland
Nationality Romanian
Occupation Businessman
Known for Datsun/Nissan UK
Automotive Financial Group (AFG)

Octav Botnar (October 21, 1913 – July 11, 1998) was a self-made businessman who founded Datsun UK (later Nissan UK) and its associated car retail business Automotive Financial Group (AFG). He was a noted philanthropist, who donated over £100 million in his lifetime.[1]

Early life[edit]

He was born in Chernivtsi, which was then called Czernowitz and belonged to Austria-Hungary. During his childhood, in 1918, Austria-Hungary dissolved and his hometown, renamed Cernăuţi, became part of Romania. Under its present name it is now part of Ukraine.

He spent 1932–1936 in prison. Afterwards, he moved to France, where he joined the French Resistance and fought against the Nazis in World War II.[2] He returned to Romania in 1946 and remained there until 1960. In 1966, he fled Communist Eastern Europe and ended up in Worthing in England. It was in Worthing where he founded Datsun UK (now Nissan UK) in 1970.

Datsun and Nissan UK[edit]

Botnar acquired the exclusive rights to sell and distribute cars for Japanese car company Datsun in 1970. Datsun later changed its name to Nissan following negotiations with Nissan Motor Company in Japan, and by the mid-1980s, became one of the biggest car imports in Britain, outselling its Japanese rival Toyota. Botnar owned more than 200 Nissan dealerships throughout the country, and was considered one of Britain's wealthiest men. [3]


Octav's only child, Camelia Botnar was killed in a car crash near Stonehenge in 1968 at the age of 20. Her death led to a wave of philanthropy that saw Botnar donate millions to charity throughout his later life. One of his larger donations was £13 million to London's Great Ormond Street Hospital. He also established the Camelia Botnar Foundation in his daughters memory. The foundation is still active today, providing residential training and work experience, helping young people to learn a skilled trade, embark on a useful career path and successfully make their own way in life.[4]

Tax Controversy[edit]

In June 1991, the Inland Revenue raised Nissan UK's headquarters, as well as Mr. Botnar's home and the homes of other company officials. The tax authority accused Botnar of evading more than £200 million in taxes. Botnar left for Switzerland and lived there for the rest of his life in Villars, near the village of Chesieres.

The Nissan UK and AFG businesses subsequently foundered, after Nissan took its UK distribution and import activities completely in-house in 1991.

Although Botnar maintained his innocence up until his final hours, he had agreed to pay £59 million to settle the case. Following settling, he opened a suit against the Inland Revenue for damages and malicious prosecution. At the time he said: "The damages I am seeking are only token, but I want to clear my name. I want my day in court". [5]


Botnar spent his last years as a tax exile in Switzerland fighting the Inland Revenue. He died on July 11th 1988 at the age of 84 after suffering from stomach cancer. He is buried in the Passy Cemetery, Paris. Tory party chairman Lord Parkinson once described Botnar as ''truly one of our greatest philanthropists''. [6]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "about page". Camelia Botnar Foundation. Retrieved 26 June 2016. 
  2. ^ "Octav Botnar". HeraldScotland. Retrieved 2018-06-11. 
  3. ^ Sorkin, Andrew Ross (1998-07-18). "Octav Botnar, 84, an Importer Named in British Tax Scandal". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-06-11. 
  4. ^ "Camelia Botnar Foundation - Home page". www.cameliabotnar.com. Retrieved 2018-06-11. 
  5. ^ "Octav Botnar". HeraldScotland. Retrieved 2018-06-11. 
  6. ^ "Octav Botnar". HeraldScotland. Retrieved 2018-06-11.