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VG Siddhartha death: From disappearance to recovery of body, here's what happened in 36 hours

The owner and founder of popular coffee chain Cafe Coffee Day went missing on Monday evening, sparking off a huge search and rescue operation. His body was finally recovered early Wednesday morning after 36 hours of frantic search.

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VG Siddhartha death: From disappearance to recovery of body, here's what happened in 36 hours
VG Siddhartha's total empire is worth over Rs 18,000 crore, of which the Cafe Coffee Day brand alone is valued at Rs 7,000-8,000 crore

Cafe Coffee Day (CCD) founder VG Siddhartha's body was found at 6:50 am on Wednesday morning. His sudden disappearance on Monday evening had kicked off a huge furore. Even as a massive search and rescue operation was underway, speculation oscillated between a suicide and abscondence while the listed Coffee Day Enterprises saw over Rs 800 crore wiped off in market capitalisation. Then, after his last letter addressed to the Board of Directors and his employees surfaced on Tuesday morning, the financials of India's largest coffee chain came under the scanner and the Income Tax department was left battling allegations of harassment. Here's a look at the events that unfolded in the past 36 hours:

  1. According to the police, Siddhartha, the son-in-law of senior BJP leader SM Krishna, had left from Bengaluru to Sakleshpur in Hassan district on Monday afternoon. But on the way he had suddenly asked his driver to go towards Mangaluru. On reaching the Ullal bridge across the Netravati river, as he was talking on the phone, he got down from the car at around 6.30 pm and told his driver that he was going for a walk. "He [Siddhartha] asked the driver to wait till his arrival. When he did not return even after two hours, the driver approached the police and lodged a missing complaint," Deputy Commissioner of Dakshina Kannada district Senthil Sasikant Senthil told PTI. The complaint was reportedly filed at 12.45 am on Tuesday at the Kankanady police station.
  2. Massive search operations were launched, involving teams of National Disaster Response Force, Coast Guard, Home Guard, fire services, the coastal police as well as police sniffer dogs. More than 200 policemen and divers on about 25 boats were involved in the operation along with local fisherman before more personnel, including from the Indian Navy, joined in during the day.
  3. The police suspect Siddhartha committed suicide by jumping off the bridge on Netravati river after the dog squad looking for the businessman caught his scent on the bridge. The speculations were fanned further when a local fisherman said on Tuesday that he had heard someone jump into the river the previous evening. The river directly opens into the sea at a distance of 600 metres.
  4. As the news of Siddhartha's disappearance and rumoured suicide spread, shares of Coffee Day Enterprises plunged 20 per cent in the early trading session to an all-time low of Rs 154.05 apiece on the BSE. As of 12:30 pm, CCD's current market capitalisation had reduced to Rs 3,254.33 crore, after losing Rs 813.32 crore in a few hours. Heavy rains also hampered the search operations along the river for a few hours.
  5. A letter, purportedly Siddhartha's suicide note addressed to CCD board members and employees, surfaced on Tuesday morning where he penned that he "failed to create the right profitable business model" despite his best efforts. Although the signatures mentioned in the letter differ from Siddhartha's signatures in the company's annual report in 2018, the letter raised eyebrows since he claimed to have buckled under pressure from one of his private equity partners and other lenders as well as harassment from the Income Tax department.
  6. "I fought for a long time but today I have given up as I could not take any more pressure from one of the private equity partners forcing me to buy back shares," the letter read. Speculations over who could this partner be ran rife. Four overseas corporate bodies hold 22.35 per cent stake in Siddhartha's Coffee Day Enterprises between them. Out of them, NLS Mauritius LLC holds the maximum 10.61 per cent shares of the company followed by KKR Mauritius PE Investments II Ltd (6.07 per cent), Marina West (Singapore) (4.63 per cent), and Marina III (Singapore) (1.04 per cent). Infosys non-executive Chairman Nandan Nilekani also has a stake in the company, with 2.69 per cent shares to his name, while one Kammargodu Ramchandregowda Sudhir holds 2.49 per cent shares. A global government pension fund owns 2.31 shares in Coffee Day Enterprises.
  7. Siddhartha also blamed the former Director General of Income Tax Department for the liquidity crunch at the company. "There was a lot of harassment from the previous DG income tax in the form of attaching our shares on two separate occasions to block our Mindtree deal and then taking position of our Coffee Day shares, although the revised returns have been filed by us. This was very unfair and has led to a serious liquidity crunch," he wrote. But the department was quick to deny the allegations of harassment.
  8. Refuting the charges, the Income Tax department said in a statement on Tuesday that the provisional attachment of shares was made by the department to protect the interests of revenue, a norm in cases of large tax evasion, and the action was based on credible evidence gathered in the search action that was undertaken against the Bengaluru-based group in 2017. According to the department, Siddhartha fetched Rs 3,200 crore from the sale of Mindtree shares, but paid only Rs 46 crore out of the total Rs 300 crore minimum alternate tax (MAT) payable on the deal. As against the balance MAT liability of Rs 250 crore and tax liability based on search findings to the tune of about Rs 400 crore, the attachment made by the department was less than 40 per cent of the likely tax liability. The statement added that Siddhartha had admitted to holding unaccounted income totalling over Rs 480 crore after raids were conducted against him and his concerns.
  9. With no developments in the search operations, Coffee Day Enterprises Ltd held an emergency board meeting on Tuesday evening. "The Board is confident that the professional management of the Company and each of the entities in the Coffee Day Group and their respective leadership team, will ensure continuity of all business operations consistent with past behaviour. In the interim, the Board is evaluating and assessing the situation, formulating appropriate steps to ensure business operations are unaffected, and has resolved to cooperate with authorities," the company said in a regulatory filing. A few hours later, search operations were suspended for the night.
  10. Siddhartha's body washed ashore near Ullal and was fished out by local fishermen from the Netravati River at around 6:30 am Wednesday. The body has been sent for postmortem, which is expected to conclude by 11 am. His family members have reached Mangaluru to take him on his last journey to his coffee estate in Chikmagalur. The family has reportedly decided to conduct the last rites in the Chetanhalli estate.
Also read: Contrary to VG Siddhartha's alleged letter, Cafe Coffee Day profitable for 3 years

Also read: I-T dept questions authenticity of VG Siddhartha's letter before disappearance

Also read: VG Siddhartha's death: Vijay Mallya says 'govt agencies, banks' can drive anyone to despair

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