NEW DELHI – V.G. Siddharth, a wealthy tycoon who beat Starbucks to dominate the retail coffee industry in India but faced personal financial problems, was found dead on Wednesday, police said.
Police have conducted a thorough search of Mr Siddharth, the founder of the popular Cafe Coffee Day chain, which was last seen Monday night on a bridge off the coastal city of Mangaluru in southern India.
Hanumantaraya, a senior police officer who goes by one name, said police were still investigating the cause of death.
Mr. Siddhartha, whose family has been in the coffee business for 1
But Coffee Coffee Day and its parent company, Coffee Day Enterprises, were embarrassed in 2017 when Indian tax authorities invaded company offices. They said they had discovered undisclosed transactions and illegal proceeds, which Mr Siddharth denied.
This year, the company's shares took another hit as Mr Siddharth struggled to pay off various creditors, leading to a liquidity crisis.
Mr. Siddharth, his wife, Malavika Hegde, and related companies own more than 50 percent of the equity in Coffee Day Enterprises.
On Tuesday, the company released a copy of a letter allegedly written by Mr. Siddhartha, which was addressed to the board of directors. The letter, which was apparently written on Mr Siddhartha's letterhead and bearing what appears to be his signature, said he was facing "a lot of harassment" by the tax authorities and that he was responsible for "all errors".  "The law should hold me accountable and only I" wrote in the letter . "My intention was never to cheat or mislead anyone. I failed as an entrepreneur. ”
Business owners in India have long been in tense relations with the tax authorities. Corruption cases and fraud by magnates have caused public distrust in entrepreneurs. But critics say that in the name of fraud, the authorities sometimes resort to harassment to collect tax claims, including by honest citizens.
The result is powerlessness from all sides. The government is struggling to raise the tax revenue needed to fund social programs and build roads and power lines. Businesses are struggling to comply with vague tax rules and burdensome enforcement practices. And multinational companies are diverting from investing in India, fearing they will not be involved in lengthy disputes.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been promising to untie the knot for years. The 2014 election campaign before his first term in office, Mr Modi's party opposed "tax terrorism", which it said had damaged India's image in the eyes of major foreign companies.
After taking power, the Modi government passed a national value-added tax aimed at easing the burden of compliance with business requirements. Mr Modi's surprising decision in 2016 to repeal high-denomination currency notes was intended to force tax fraudsters to turn over money they had lost to avoid taxes.
But many major problems remain, even as institutions such as the World Bank acknowledge the steps India is taking to facilitate its business.
Police said that Mr Siddharth, who was in his late 50s or early 60s, told his family he was going to a vacation resort on Monday. He then asked his driver to drive him to Mangaluru, about 200 miles from the company headquarters in Bangalore.
In the evening, Mr Siddhartha asked the driver to stop near the 30-meter bridge of the Netravati River outside the city, saying he wanted to walk.
According to local news, Mr Siddharta asked the driver to meet him on the other side of the bridge and then called. When Mr Siddharta did not show up or answer his phone, which was switched off, the driver filed a police report.
After Mr Siddharth's body was restored, shares in Coffee Day Enterprises fell nearly 20 percent. Calls to the Bangalore headquarters were not answered on Wednesday, and her stores were ordered closed for the day.
In a statement by on Tuesday, Sadananda Pujari, company secretary and compliance officer, stated that Coffee Day Enterprises was cooperating with Indian authorities and that the company was "professionally managed and managed by competent management."