siddhartha

Cafe Coffee Day founder V.G. Siddhartha disappeared July 28 in mysterious circumstances. (VG Siddhartha photo via twitter)

NEW DELHI (IANS) — There are too many moving parts to the ongoing missing V.G. Siddhartha saga.

Siddhartha became the first entrepreneur in Karnataka to set up a café in 1996, Cafe Coffee Day, which has now become India's largest and premier retail chain of cafes with 1,423 cafes in 209 cities.

The Bangalore Income Tax Department, accused by the missing Cafe Coffee Day founder of pressuring and harassing him in the past, has put out a statement saying that Siddhartha's signature in the purported suicide note does not tally with the one in the Annual Reports.

Meanwhile, CCD, in a stock exchange filing, also describes the suicide note as purported.

A fisherman claimed to have seen Siddhartha jumping into the Netravathi river from the bridge in Mangaluru on Monday evening, police said July 29.

"We have recorded the statement of fisherman Symond D'Souza that he saw a man jumping off the bridge into the river when he was fishing nearby," Mangaluru Assistant Commissioner of Police Kodandaram told IANS over phone.

Siddhartha, 60, went missing since July 28 evening from the road bridge between Ullal and Mangaluru over the river around 7 p.m. as his car driver Basavaraj Patil told the police.

"When I heard a thud-like sound in the river, I turned and saw the same man in the water struggling to float but drowned by the time I could reach the spot. As the current was strong, I could not find him in the fast-moving water, as the river is almost full and deep," D'Souza told the police.

The police said the man D'Souza saw jumping off the bridge's pillar number 8 and drowning was likely to be Siddhartha, as his driver informed the nearby Kanakanady police station that his employer was missing from the same spot since that time.

In a complaint to the police, Patil said that Siddhartha told him to stop by the side soon as they drove on to the bridge and asked him to wait in the car at the end of the bridge as he wanted to walk up and had to make calls.

"When the rain started, I took a u-turn and drove back to the spot where I left Sir and searched around for him. As it was dark, windy and raining, I could not find him anywhere on the bridge or in the river," Patil said in the complaint.

Siddhartha left Bengaluru that afternoon to Sakleshpur near Hassan where he has a house and one of his coffee estates. As it was on way to Mangaluru, he told Patil to drive towards Mangaluru after a short break at Sakleshpur to fresh-up.

Siddhartha is the elder son-in-law of senior BJP leader S.M. Krishna, who was External Affairs Minister in the UPA-2 government (2009-12) and state Chief Minister (1999-2004) when in the Congress.

Bunging in another monkey wrench and opening a fresh front, Karnataka Congress leader D.K. Shivakumar has now claimed that he was to meet Siddhartha on July 28.

Shivakumar, in a tweet, said he got a call from Siddhartha on July 28, asking if they could meet. He also called the letter written by Siddhartha to the board and employees "utterly fishy.” 

Siddhartha was raided. More than Rs 300 crore in "undisclosed income" was reportedly found in raids on Karnataka minister Shivakumar and his family and associates in August 2017. The raids were seen as politically motivated.

About Rs 100 crore of this was found from Shivakumar, or DKS as he is known, and his family, the I-T Dept said.

In January this year, Income Tax officials interrogated Shivakumar for over two hours in connection with the alleged unaccounted cash and documents that were seized from his premises during the raid in August 2017.

The I-T department went into overdrive by conducting raids in over 20 locations related to various actors and producers from the sandalwood industry and didn't spare the Congress leader either.

The IT Department said Siddhartha fetched Rs 3,200 crore from the sale of Mindtree shares, but had paid only Rs 46 crore out of the total Rs 300 crore minimum alternate tax payable on the deal. The raids against the group around the same time as DKS were carried out as a result of a similar action against a prominent Karnataka politician and sources said Siddhartha, in a sworn statement, "admitted" unaccounted income of Rs 362.11 crore and Rs 118.02 crore in his hands and that of Coffee Day Enterprises Ltd respectively.

Fanning the fire was a furious Biocon promoter Kiran Mazumdar Shaw who tweeted: "Coffee Day Owner Alleged Harassment By Tax Officer In Letter: Report - Such a shocking and sad end to a quiet and unassuming pioneer who started the coffee cafes business ahead of Starbucks in India.” 

In a separate tweet, she said: "The private equity fund manager might have acted like a money lender and seems to have caused unbearable stress for Siddhartha."

Siddhartha, in his alleged suicide note, has alluded to a DG, Income Tax who harassed him, preventing his Mindtree deal from going through twice. He has also hit out at a PE Investor.

Of the PE Investors in CCD, spokesperson of investment firm KKR Mauritius PE investments II Lt which owns 6.07 per cent, has said: "We have seen the statement that Coffee Day Enterprises has made to the stock exchanges. We are deeply saddened by the developments and our thoughts are with his family at this time. We believe in VG Siddhartha and had invested in the company about nine years ago. We sold approximately 4.25 percent (of our total holding of approximately 10.3 percent in the company) in February 2018 on the stock exchange and have not sold any shares before or after."

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