Cafe Coffee Day founder VG Siddhartha, the son-in-law of former Karnataka Chief Minister SM Krishna, was found dead on Wednesday morning, 36 hours after he went missing from a bridge near Mangaluru in Karnataka. A massive search operation involving multiple agencies was on since Monday evening, when Mr Siddhartha went missing. The body had washed ashore the Netravati river near Ullal in Mangaluru and was found by fishermen at around 6:30 in the morning.
"Two fishermen found Siddhartha's body early this morning (Wednesday) about 500 metres away from the road bridge from where he is alleged to have jumped into the river on Monday night," Mangaluru Police Commissioner Sandeep Patil told reporters.
"I saw a body floating while I was fishing and then, I informed the police. I participated in the rescue operations with the district administration yesterday as well," fisherman Rithesh told reporters.
The Mangaluru police chief said they are investigating to determine whether Mr Siddhartha took his own life.
Politicians from across party lines condoled Mr Siddhartha's death. "They (Siddhartha''s family) are making arrangements for the funeral. I will also attend it. I have no words to comfort the family," Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa said. "He had more assets than liabilities," he said.
JDS chief and former prime minister HD Deve Gowda said, "I am shocked by the demise of VG Siddhartha. He was a very simple man. I knew him for the past 35 years. He had paved way for jobs for thousands of people. The government should properly investigate the cause of his tragic death."
Mr Siddhartha is survived by his wife Malavika Hegde and two sons.
VG Siddhartha, the founder of India's largest coffee chain, was last seen on the bridge over the Netravati river in the coastal town on Monday evening, according to the police. In his statement to the police, Mr Siddhartha's driver Basavaraj Patil said they were going to Sakleshpur from Bengaluru in a Toyota Innova - a 220-km drive - when the businessman asked him to turn towards Mangaluru.
As they approached a bridge near Mangaluru, the businessman asked his driver to stop the car and got off. Mr Patil, in the statement, said Mr Siddhartha asked him to drive towards the other end of the bridge and wait there.
Multiple teams of police forces, along with the Coast Guard and the National Disaster Response Force, had been searching for Mr Siddhartha. Police had also used dog squads and inflatable boats and roped in local fishermen to search the river.
A fisherman had on Tuesday claimed that he saw someone jumping off the bridge.
Days before he went missing, Mr Siddhartha, 60, had reportedly written a letter to board members and employees of Cafe Coffee Day. The letter - accessed by news agency ANI - alleges harassment by an income tax officer and expresses regret for not being able to create "the right profitable business".
He also said that he was under "tremendous pressure" from one of "the private equity partners".
VG Siddhartha's offices were raided by income tax officers in September 2017. He was among the country's largest exporters of coffee bean. His family has been in the coffee-growing business for more than 130 years, according to his profile page on the website of consultancy firm Mindtree, where he was a non-executive director.
Calling for a fair probe into his death, senior Congress leader and former Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said the letter reportedly written by Mr Siddhartha "discussed about tax terrorism, which is an ugly face of politically motivated institutions".
The letter supposed to have written by V G Siddhartha few days before his death has discussed about tax terrorism, which is an ugly face of politically motivated institutions.- Siddaramaiah (@siddaramaiah)
What signals are we sending to the budding entrepreneurs without even an attempt to reform?
The Income Tax Department on Tuesday denied charges of harassment during its probe against Mr Siddhartha as it pointed out that his available signature was different from that on a letter being circulated on social media.
It said the businessman had admitted holding stash income after raids were conducted against him.
Coffee Day Enterprises held an emergency board meeting on Wednesday and named independent board member SV Ranganath as interim chairman.
(With inputs from PTI, ANI, IANS and AFP)