Former Nissan UK boss Octav Botnar, who has died aged 84, was a war hero, philanthropist, and millionaire businessman whose last years were marked by scandal.

Having secured exclusive rights to distribute Nissan cars in the UK, Mr Botnar's empire came crashing down in 1991.

First Nissan withdrew his franchise and then his headquarters in Worthing, West Sussex, was raided by inspectors from the Inland Revenue.

Wanted on tax fraud charges, Botnar was forced to fight his legal battle with the Revenue from exile in Switzerland. The charges were only dropped last year because Botnar was considered too ill to stand trial.

By then, his business was in ruins, two of his colleagues had served jail sentences, and his business had been forced to pay out a #59m settlement towards a #239m corporation tax claim. To the end, he claimed he was innocent of the charges.

Of Romanian extraction, Botnar was born in Ukraine and fought for the French Resistance against the Nazis in the Second World War. He was captured at one point, but managed to escape.

He went to Romania after the war but quickly became disillusioned with Communism. Arrested by the authorities, he spent seven years aboard a prison barge on the Danube before being released under a general amnesty in 1964.

Hunger and disease had pushed his weight down to six stone. He and wife Marcela decided to emigrate. They went first to Germany and then, in 1967, to England where Botnar - with no previous business experience - went into the car import trade.

He built an empire reckoned to be worth #2000m, but then came the 1991 debacle.

Botnar's only child, Camelia, 21, was killed in a car crash near Stonehenge in 1968. Her death led to a wave of philanthropy from Botnar that saw him donate #13m to London's Great Ormond Street Hospital in memory of Camelia.

Tory party chairman Lord Parkinson once described Botnar as ''truly one of our greatest philanthropists''.

Earlier this year, Botnar announced he was planning to sue the Inland Revenue for damages and malicious prosecution. He said: ''The damages I am seeking are only token, but I want to clear my name. I want my day in court.''

His last years were spent in Villars in Switzerland fighting not only the taxman but also fading health which resulted in his stomach being removed after an operation for cancer.