ASIL Nadir, the former Polly Peck tycoon, took more than £146m (€174m) from the firm's accounts before fleeing Britain almost 20 years ago, a court heard today.
Nadir, now 70, plundered the cash from company bank accounts before it was "dishonestly routed away to benefit himself, his family or associates", it was said.
The textile magnate was due to stand trial over the missing money in late 1993, but fled to his native Northern Cyprus before proceedings could begin, the Old Bailey heard.
He did not return until August 2010 and is now on trial, facing 13 specimen counts of theft, relating to the disappearance of £33.1m and US$2.5m.
The cash is alleged to have been taken from three accounts held by Polly Peck International (PPI) with the Natwest and Midland banks between August 1987 and August 1990.
"Mr Nadir was chairman and chief executive of PPI," Philip Shears QC, prosecuting, told jurors.
"He was a man who wielded very considerable power over its operations and management and that of its subsidiaries, particularly in Northern Cyprus.
"We say he abused that power and helped himself to tens of millions of pounds of PPI's money.
"The time span of the counts is between 1987 and 1990.
"That is a long time ago. Why are we trying matters so long ago?
"The answer is simple. He was due to stand his trial in late 1993 but in May of 1993 he fled the country to Northern Cyprus, thus leaving the jurisdiction, only to return in August 2010."
Nadir's theft involved stealing the company's right to draw on the accounts to a certain value, the courts was told.
Mr Shears said: "He stole PPI's right to draw that sum on its account by the actions he took by either sending instructions for the transfer of funds out of the account or authorising the transfer of funds.
"As a director of PPI and a signatory on the account he was entitled to instruct PPI's bankers to transfer funds to its subsidiaries, to third parties in the course of PPI's business and for PPI group purposes.
"However, you may easily accept, he would have had no authority to transfer or authorise funds from PPI for his own personal benefit or for that of his family or associates.
"That is what this case is all about. We say he caused transfers out of sums of money from the three PPI accounts which he dishonestly routed away to benefit himself, his family or associates.
"A simple way of expressing what happened is that he in effect stole PPI's money.'
The total amount stolen was £146,050,000 and US$6,424,724 through 64 transactions, he said, adding: "The counts in the indictment are placed before you as sample counts, or specimen counts, of this bigger picture."
Nadir, of Belgravia, central London, denies 13 counts of theft.
The trial continues and is expected to last up to six months.