New Delhi: Private jets, women, diamonds and a promise to explore the “greed, fraud and corruption” — Netflix’s Bad Boy Billionaire promises it all.
The trailer for the show begins with photos of the four “bad boy billionaires” — Vijay Mallya, Subrata Roy, Nirav Modi and Ramalinga Raju — being flashed across the screen, with a dramatic background musical score.
For the next two minutes, the trailer switches narratives between the lives of these four men, showing a glimpse of their lavish lifestyles and piecing together the tale of their downfall, through commentary from journalists, authors and people who worked with them.
The show, which designates itself a docuseries, was set to release on 2 September. However, since the trailer released on 19 August, it has been caught up in legal troubles, which resulted in the trailer being taken down and the release being stayed.
Given the future of the show remains in limbo, here’s a primer on what the series intended to bring to the audience, the objections Netflix needs to tide over, and where the “bad boy billionaires” are at the moment.
What’s in the documentary?
Netflix has been tight-lipped on the contents of the documentary so far, with their PR as well as lawyers keeping mum on their next move too. But here’s what we know so far.
In its description of the show, Netflix calls it an “investigative docuseries” that “explores the greed, fraud and corruption that built up — and ultimately brought down — India’s most infamous tycoons”.
From the platform’s own submission in the Supreme Court, Bad Boy Billionaires is an “investigative documentary series discussing the insight, growth and success story of businesses of four most well-known billionaires of India”.
It says that the docuseries consists of “facts, information, footage and snippets pertaining to above mentioned billionaires, which information (sic) is available in public domain and/or is in the public knowledge”.
The petition filed in the Supreme Court also said that the series “conducts discussions with journalists/experts on facts and information based on publicly available material”.
The trailer itself does show an assemblage of statements and comments by experts, journalists and other people, including author Pavan C. Lal, who witnessed the functioning of these billionaires over the years.
Bad Boy Billionaire 1: Vijay Mallya
The trailer begins with a smiling Vijay Mallya posing with women.
Once touted “India’s high-flying liquor king”, Mallya’s fall from grace was steep, and prolific. He launched Kingfisher Airlines in 2005. However, within the first two years, the airlines reported major losses and was ultimately grounded in 2012.
Since then, Mallya has been accused in a bank loan default case of over Rs 9,000 crore, his passport has been revoked by the Ministry of External Affairs after he left India, he is the subject of India’s extradition appeals to UK, and became the first person to be declared a “fugitive economic offender” under the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act 2018.
The trailer shows several people commenting on how 64-year-old Mallya “expanded Kingfisher Airlines by borrowing more and more money from state banks”, and that “the only difference between a petty criminal and Vijay Mallya is that he wears a suit and throws lavish parties”.
In May 2017, the Supreme Court found him guilty of contempt of court for transferring $40 million to his children in violation of the court’s order. He is presently in the UK, but has been asked to appear in the Supreme Court on 5 October for hearing on sentence in the contempt case.
Bad Boy Billionaire 2: Subrata Roy
“Subrata Roy’s genius was he understood the value of scale,” the Netflix trailer says.
Roy’s story is often recalled as the quintessential rags-to-riches one — the story of a man who went from Rs 2,000 in his pocket to being the leader of a Rs 73,000 crore business empire. He is the managing worker and chairman of Sahara India Pariwar.
The 72-year-old’s troubles began when the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) pulled up Sahara India Real Estate Corporation Ltd (SIRECL) and Sahara Housing Investment Corporation Ltd (SHICL) in 2010 for “various illegalities” committed by the Sahara group in raising over Rs 24,000 crore from more than three crore investors.
The trailer does speak about this, with commentators saying, “Subrata Roy ended up employing nearly a million agents, raising capital from the poorest people in India”.
Roy was sent to Tihar jail by the Supreme Court in March 2014 and came out on parole only after two years, in May 2016, to perform the last rites of his mother. He has been out since.
Roy, who appeared in the Supreme Court in January this year, informed it that he has cleared most of the dues demanded by SEBI, and has asked the court to remove the security personnel assigned to him.
The top court, however, refused to do so, while SEBI lawyers argued that the security was not for his personal security but to keep an eye on him and ensure that he turned up in court when required.
Bad Boy Billionaire 3: Nirav Modi
“Jeweller extraordinaire Nirav Modi”. This is how the trailer introduces the 49-year-old Modi to the audience.
The luxury diamond jeweller is currently lodged in a UK jail, and is fighting against his extradition to India.
A third generation diamantaire, Modi’s rise in the business began in 2010. In 2013, he made it to the Forbes list of billionaires for the first time. In 2017, Forbes ranked him 85 in the list of India’s billionaires.
However, his career soon lost its sheen after the multi-crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam unfolded in 2018 and he was accused of defrauding the bank for Rs 28,000 crore. He soon began to be chased by various law enforcement authorities, including the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Enforcement Directorate (ED) and even the tax department for illegal transactions and alleged frauds. He left India the same year in 2018.
The trailer captures this, with statements like, “Nirav Modi started to take a series of loans by bribing officials” and “Nirav Modi was defrauding Punjab National Bank, $1.8 billion.”
Bad Boy Billionaire 4: Ramalinga Raju
“Driven by insecurity and intense rivalry, Raju cooks the books.
“Raju was trying to beat the clock. It’s like a giant bubble… and that sort of went, Boom! A billion dollars just disappeared,” says the trailer about for Satyam Computers chief.
It was almost 11 years ago that B. Ramalinga Raju first admitted to having inflated the company’s revenue to attract investors. Then CEO and chairman of Satyam Computers, he stepped down after admitting to embezzlement of financial figures to the tune of Rs 7,136 crore, including Rs 5,040 crore of non-existent cash and bank balances.
Dubbed “India’s Enron”, the incident sent shockwaves across the corporate sector and led to a series of policy changes in India.
The 65-year-old was convicted of fraud in 2015 by a Hyderabad court, and was later awarded a seven-year jail term. His sentence was, however, suspended the same year and he was granted bail after he filed an appeal.
The trailer ends with one of the narrators saying, “It was like riding a tiger, not knowing how to get off without being eaten.”
This is what Raju had said in his letter to his board of directors back in 2009, explaining what had happened.
So what next?
So far, Netflix has got adverse orders from a court in Bihar on Sahara’s plea and another one in Hyderabad on Raju’s plea, while another plea filed by Mehul Choksi, Nirav Modi’s uncle, was rejected by the Delhi High Court.
Sahara India, through one of its sector managers, filed a suit in a court in Bihar’s Araria on 27 August, asserting that the documentary is defamatory and “maligns and tarnishes” Roy’s image.
According to the Bihar court order, the plea said that “putting Sahara Shree in the same basket” as the other three men and showing him alongside the “three fugitives” is “clearly defamatory, malicious and objectionable”.
The court agreed and barred Netflix and other parties from using Roy’s name in the docuseries. This was an ex-parte injunction, meaning that the defendant’s weren’t heard while passing the order. The defendants have been asked to appear before the court on 2 December.
Netflix challenged this order in the Supreme Court, but withdrew it after the court advised it to go to the Patna High Court if it wished to challenge the Bihar court’s order.
The plea filed by Raju in Hyderabad asserted that if the web series is broadcasted, his right to a fair trial will get hampered as the cases against him are still pending. Agreeing with this, the court granted an interim injunction on 1 September restraining Netflix from releasing the docuseries.
The Hyderabad court has posted the matter for hearing on 18 November.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has also issued notice on a transfer petition filed by Netflix to transfer all the cases registered across the country in relation to the series before a single court.
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