Siddhartha disappearance gets murkier, as link between DKS and him emerges

New Delhi, July 30 (IANS) There are too many moving parts to the ongoing missing V.G. Siddhartha saga.

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.

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".

The political angle cannot be ignored in Siddhartha's disappearance. Siddhartha got off his car at a bridge near the Nethravati River, near Mangaluru. The driver alerted family members after he didn't return for an hour.

The driver also said Siddhartha was on a phone call when he got off the car. Helicopters and Coast Guard have been called for search operations.

The Income Tax note is actually most illuminating: "A note said to be written by Shri. VG Siddhartha (VGS) of CCD is doing the rounds. Among others it was mentioned in the note about the attachment of Coffee day shares by the Income Tax department. The authenticity of the note is not known and the signature does not tally with Shri VGS's signature as available in his annual reports.

"The investigation in the case of Shri V.G. Siddhartha and Café Coffee Day (CCD) arose from the search in the case of a prominent political leader of Karnataka. It is based on the unearthing of a credible evidence of financial transactions done by the CCD in a concealed manner. A person holding citizenship of Singapore was also covered in the search action. He was found with unaccounted cash of Rs 1.2 crore and admitted that the cash belong to Sh V.G. Siddhartha.

"In the search action, after considering the evidence gathered by the department, Shri V.G. Siddhartha admitted the unaccounted income of Rs 362.11 crore and Rs 118.02 crore, in the hands of Shri VG Siddhartha and M/s Coffe Day Enterprises Ltd respectively in the sworn statement. Shri Siddhartha, subsequently filed the Return of Income but did not offer the above undisclosed income as admitted in the sworn statement in both the cases EXCEPT SUM OF AROUND Rs 35 crores in his individual case.

"Further one of the group company M/s Coffee Day Global Ltd has not paid the Self-Assessment Tax of Rs 14.5 crore on the returned income. M/s Coffee Day Enterprises Ltd did not offer the admitted income in its part.

"On 21st January, 2019 major newspapers had reported that Shri VG Siddhartha is planning to sell the equity shares of Mindtree Ltd held by him and his company immediately. Based on this report, an immediate verification of the facts were carried out. It was found that the assessees Shri V.G. Siddhartha, M/s Coffee Day Enterprises Ltd and M/s Coffee day trading Ltd together held nearly 21 per cent of shareholding in Mindtree (for Rs 3,200 crore)."

This clearly establishes a strong political angle as well. Remember that Siddhartha is former Karnataka Chief Minister and UPA Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna's son-in-law. 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 (MAT) 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.

They alleged that tax sleuths recovered numerous messages from his mobile phone that indicated his "active involvement in cross-border hawala transactions." A Singaporean citizen was searched in this case and he was found with unaccounted cash of Rs 1.2 crore and the person told tax officials that it belonged to Siddhartha, they claimed.

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 n 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."

--IANS

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