NEW DELHI – V.G. Siddhartha, a wealthy tycoon who defeated Starbucks to dominate the Indian retail coffee industry but faced personal financial difficulties, was found dead Wednesday, police said.
The police had conducted a thorough search for Mr. Siddhartha, the founder of the people, chain Cafe Coffee Day, which was last seen on Monday night on a waterfront bridge outside the coastal city of Mangalore in southern India. Fishermen discovered his body Wednesday morning near the coast.
Hanumantharaya, a high-ranking police officer with a name, said the police are still investigating the cause of death.
But Cafe Coffee Day and its parent organization, Coffee Day Enterprises, were in turmoil in 2017 when Indian tax authorities raided corporate offices. They said they had found undisclosed transactions and illegal revenue that Mr Siddhartha denied.
The stock suffered another blow this year as Mr. Siddhartha struggled to pay various lenders, resulting in a liquidity crisis.
Mr. Siddhartha, his wife Malavika Hegde and their affiliates held over 50 percent of the shares in Coffee Day Enterprises.
On Tuesday, the company released a copy of a letter allegedly written by Mr. Siddhartha and addressed to the Board of Directors. The letter on the letterhead of Mr. Siddhartha states that he has been "bullied" by the tax authorities and took responsibility for "all mistakes".
"The law should apply." I and only I are accountable " says in the letter . "I never intended to cheat or mislead anyone. I failed as an entrepreneur. "
Entrepreneurs in India have long maintained a strained relationship with the tax authorities. High-profile cases of corruption and fraud by tycoons have led to public mistrust of entrepreneurs. However, critics claim that in the name of combating fraud, the authorities occasionally use harassment to collect tax claims, even from honest citizens.
The result is frustration on all sides. The government is fighting for the tax revenue needed to finance social programs and build roads and power lines. Businesses find it difficult to comply with vague tax rules and tiresome enforcement practices. And multinational companies are reluctant to invest in India because they fear being involved in lengthy disputes.
The country's prime minister, Narendra Modi, has been promising for years to unravel the knot. Before his first term in 2014, he ran for the elections. Modi's party criticized the "tax terrorism" that had worsened India's image in the eyes of large foreign companies.
Since its seizure of power, the modes government has passed a national VAT, which should facilitate the compliance burden on businesses. Mr. Modi's surprise decision in 2016 to forgo high-denomination banknotes should force tax evaders to reverse the money they had pulled away to avoid taxes, as the World Bank has acknowledged India's steps to facilitate business ,
The police stated that Mr. Siddhartha, in his late fifties or early sixties, had told his family that he would go to a resort on Monday. Then he asked his driver to take him to Mangalore, about 200 miles from the company headquarters in Bangalore.
When the evening started, Mr. Siddhartha asked the driver to stop near the 30-foot Netravati Bridge outside the city. said he wanted to run.
According to local news reports, Mr. Siddhartha asked the driver to meet him on the other side of the bridge and then called him. When Mr. Siddhartha did not show up or did not answer his switched off telephone, the driver filed a police report.
After recovering Mr. Siddhartha's body, shares in Coffee Day Enterprises fell by nearly 20 percent. Calls to the company's headquarters in Bangalore were not answered on Wednesday, and business was closed for the day.
In a statement issued on Tuesday Sadananda Poojary, the company's secretary and compliance officer, said that Coffee Day Enterprises cooperated with the Indian authorities, and the company was "professionally led and led by competent leadership."