Netflix vs India’s Bad Boy Billionaires – US streaming giant reveals the truth behind Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi and Subrata Roy’s fall from grace

Netflix has won the right to stream a series featuring Indian tycoons who ran into trouble with the law – a victory that may boost its efforts to offer more local content in a crucial emerging market.

An Indian court allowed the American streaming giant to release a bulk of the episodes in its Bad Boy Billionaires: India series, which documents the travails of beer tycoon Vijay Mallya, diamantaire Nirav Modi and Subrata Roy, founder-owner of the Sahara India Pariwar group. However, an episode on a software tycoon is still facing challenges in another local court.

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The win, after weeks of legal wrangling in India’s courts, bolsters Netflix, which is ploughing hundreds of millions of dollars into India to offer more local content. The company is aiming for a larger slice of the biggest open market in Asia, which also boasts more than 500 million smartphones users.

The series “explores the greed, fraud and corruption that built up – and ultimately brought down – India’s most infamous tycoons,” Netflix says on its website. The fourth episode of the series, about B. Ramalinga Raju, remains on hold as Netflix contests a legal challenge against its airing. Raju confessed to inflating the assets of his software firm, Satyam Computer Services Ltd., by about US$1 billion in 2009.

An Indian court convicted Satyam Computer Services founder B. Ramalinga Raju of stealing millions of dollars in one of the largest frauds in the country's corporate history. Photo: AP

Netflix India declined to comment on the ongoing legal challenge and the recent legal win.

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Meanwhile, Indian conglomerate Sahara India Pariwar said in a statement that the episode on its founder and owner Roy was “ill-motivated” and “contains various incorrect and misleading facts which depict only one-sided allegations.” The company, which got a stay order from court on the docuseries last month, has filed criminal cases against Netflix as well as its producers, directors and reporters, according to the statement.

Chairman of India's Sahara Group, Subrata Roy, isn’t happy about Netflix’s “one sided” portrayal of him in the new docuseries. Photo: AFP

Beer tycoon Vijay Mallya, once called the “King of Good Times” for his extravagant lifestyle, is fighting his extradition to India. He was arrested in London in 2017 after 17 Indian banks accused him of wilfully defaulting on more than 91 billion rupees (US$1.2 billion) in debt accumulated by Kingfisher Airlines – a carrier he founded in 2005 and shut down seven years later.

Vijay Mallya, founder and chairman of Kingfisher Airlines Ltd., sparks up as he leaves his extradition hearing at Westminster Magistrates' Court in London in 2018. Photo: Luke MacGregor/Bloomberg

Nirav Modi, the ex-billionaire and one-time jeweller to Hollywood stars (Kate Winslet wore his creations to the Oscars) is also fighting extradition to India where he is accused of defrauding a state-run lender of around US$2 billion.

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Luxury diamond jewellery designer and creative director of the Nirav Modi chain of diamond jewellery retail stores also features in the new Netflix show. Photo: Mint via Getty Images

Faking invoices, inflating cash reserves and understating debt

Roy was held in custody in 2014 for his Sahara group’s failure to comply with an Indian market regulator’s order for a US$3.9 billion refund to depositors, forcing the tycoon to sell his assets. He has been out on parole since 2016. Sahara, which had opposed the Netflix series and got a stay order last month, told the local court in its petition that the documentary demeaned Roy and his conglomerate and made baseless claims.

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Sahara Group Chairman Subrata Roy owned New York Plaza and London's Grosvenor House. Photo: Reuters

Raju was sentenced to seven years in prison in 2015 after an Indian court found him guilty of falsifying accounts at his firm, Satyam, by faking invoices, inflating cash reserves and understating debt. Raju told a Hyderabad court that airing the documentary would amount to defamation, while cases against him were still being heard in the courts.

Founder and former chairman of fraud-hit Satyam Computers B. Ramalinga Raju as he is escorted from Chenchalguda Jail in Hyderabad in 2009. Photo: AFP

This article originally appeared in Bloomberg.

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Nirav Modi once made jewellery for Kate Winslet to wear to the Oscars; now he, beer mogul Vijay Mallya and Subrata Roy have lost a legal battle to prevent their stories being exposed in an explosive new Netflix series – while a 4th episode about software tycoon B. Ramalinga Raju hangs in the balance