V G Siddhartha
July 31 2019
V G Siddhartha, the owner of Vaitarna Holdings Private Inc (VPHI) of India, which controls forest concessions in Guyana amounting to 737,814 hectares has been found dead.
According to reports from Indian media yesterday, Siddhartha’s body was found more than a day after he went missing under suspicious circumstances.
He went missing from the Netravati dam site in Karnataka on Monday evening and his body was recovered 36 hours later at around 6:50 am local time by local fishermen. A note allegedly written by the businessman was found on Tuesday and appeared to suggest his death was a suicide. In the note he appeared to lament his failure to create the right business model after 37 years.
Business Today, an Indian news site, has reported that his driver told police that the businessman got off from his car near a bridge in Kotekar on the Netravati River near Mangalore around 6.30 pm on Monday and did not come back. He tried to look for Siddhartha and hour later but could not find him.
“We found the body early morning today. It needs to be identified, we have already informed the family members. We are shifting the body to Wenlock Hospital. We will continue further investigation,” Mangaluru Police Commissioner Sandeep Patil is reported as saying.
Siddhartha, who is the owner of India’s largest coffee chain Cafe Coffee Day (CCD) was most recently in the news following a 2017 investigation for tax evasion.
According to a Times of India report, from that time India’s Income Tax Department conducted raids on just over two dozen properties belonging to Siddartha across the country, including in Bengaluru, Hassan, Chikkamagaluru, Chennai and Mumbai.
The report said, he also admitted to concealing Rs 650 Crore, equivalent to just under US$100 million, in income.
“The detection of undisclosed income is expected to be much higher since there are a number of other issues, including violations of other statutes on which there is no disclosure, but relevant evidence has been found. These will be pursued effectively with vigour, energy and imagination,” the Income Tax Department is quoted as saying in a statement on the raids.
VHPI is a subsidiary of CCD.
CCD, through its Dark Forest subsidiary, in 2010 acquired the State Forest Exploratory Permit for 391,853 hectares of forest originally awarded in 2007 to US-based Simon and Shock International Logging Incorporated (SSILI), after buying out SSILI. Subsequently, Dark Forest acquired the 345,961 hectares concession which was originally assigned to Caribbean Resources Limited (CRL).
The company had been harvesting and exporting logs.
Siddhartha had said in 2012 that a processing centre for logs would be set up here but the main facility would be in India. There had been concern about the company’s failure to fulfill promised value-added production but up to last year, the Ministry of Natural Resources said it was satisfied that VHPI had started “value added initiatives.” It had also said that the company was looking to ramp up lumber production.