Business tycoon Asil Nadir stole just under £150 million from his business empire for himself, his family and friends, the Old Bailey heard today.
The money went through a complex series of transactions including being transferred to a bank he owned in Northern Cyprus, it was alleged.
Nadir was said to have stolen the money from Polly Peck International between 1987 and 1990.
He was due to stand trial in 1993, but in May that year "fled the country back to Northern Cyprus, thus leaving the jurisdiction only to return in August 2010", said Philip Shears QC, prosecuting.
Nadir, 70, of Mayfair, central London, denies 13 sample counts alleging he stole £34 million.
The case before Mr Justice Holroyde is due to last at least four months.
The jury was told that Nadir had abused his position as chairman and chief executive of PPI to steal from the company.
Mr Shears said: "He was a man who wielded very considerable power over its operations and management, and that of its subsidiaries, particularly in Northern Cyprus.
"He abused that power and helped himself to tens of millions of pounds of PPI's money.
"As a director of PPI and a signatory on the account, he was entitled to instruct PPI's bankers to transfer funds.
"However, he would have no authority to transfer or authorise funds from PPI for his own personal benefit or that of his family or associates.
"We caused the transfer from the three PPI accounts which he dishonestly routed away to benefit himself, his family or associates."
Mr Shears added: "We say Mr Nadir's thefts were very extensive and in fact involve a large number of transactions.
"He was engaged in a course of conduct dishonestly extracting funds from PPI for his own purposes."
He said most of the funds ended up "within a fairly complex structure of offshore companies" based in Switzerland, the Bahamas and elsewhere.
Some £26.2 million was used for the covert purchase of shares in PPI by companies owned by Nadir.
It had also been paid into Nadir family trusts of which Nadir was the beneficiary, and to pay off Nadir's debts.
Some £18.6 million had been paid into companies owned by Nadir, and £7.5 million to those "nominally" owned by his mother, Safiye, the court heard.
"He really was the person who was responsible and controlled these interests," said Mr Shears.
Mrs Nadir's bank account in Northern Cyprus had been used to receive stolen money, he added.
It was also, with the help of willing associates, allegedly used to pay off Nadir's debts, pay off his tax bill, buy a Mercedes car for his former wife, pay money to his son, Birol, and used to buy expensive properties.
Attempts to get cash back to the UK when the company got into trouble had been fruitless except for a "very small fraction".
Mr Shears said PPI went into administration in October 1990 with debts of £550 million.
"When the administrators went to Northern Cyprus, they effectively found no cash at all, just a black hole," he said.
"There is a perfectly good explanation for that - it had gone. Asil Nadir had stolen it."
Nadir had transferred considerable sums to Turkish and Northern Cyprus subsidiaries.
By October 1990, PPI's statement of affairs showed it was purportedly owed more than £439 million by Unipac and £275 million by Meyna.
In December 1989, accountants showed £202.6 million - 81% of PPI's total cash balances - in the subsidiaries.
The jury heard that Nadir got a controlling interest in PPI which had been a holding company of a group of firms in the garment trade in the east end of London.
Under his leadership, it grew into an international group with more than 200 subsidiaries specialising in food, electronics, textiles and leisure.
Its headquarters were in Berkeley Square, central London, and it had trading centres from Hong Kong to New York.
Mr Shears said: "Asil Nadir was the dominant force in PPI. He maintained a direct control over its operations, directing its affairs in an autocratic manner and refusing to tolerate rival sources of power in the management or to accept constraints."
This included his insistence, the court heard, on having an unusual single signatory system, which allowed limitless amounts to be transferred on the authorisation of one member of the board.
When questioned about transfers to Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Nadir insisted it made good business sense, said Mr Shears.