A fisherman claimed to have seen a man, likely to be Cafe Coffee Day (CCD) founder VG Siddhartha, jumping into the Netravathi river from the bridge in Karnataka's Mangaluru on Monday evening, police said on Tuesday.
"We have recorded the statement of fisherman Symond D'Souza that he saw a man jumping off the bridge into the river when he was fishing nearby," Mangaluru Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Kodandaram told IANS over phone.
Siddhartha, 60, went missing on Monday evening and was seen last on the road bridge between Ullal and Mangaluru over the river around 7 pm as his car driver Basavaraj Patil told the police.
"When I heard a thud-like sound in the river, I turned and saw the same man in the water struggling to float but drowned by the time I could reach the spot. As the current was strong, I could not find him in the fast-moving water, as the river is almost full and deep," D'Souza told the police.
The police said the man D'Souza saw jumping off the bridge's pillar number 8 and drowning was likely to be Siddhartha, as his driver informed the nearby Kanakanady police station that his employer was missing from the same spot since that time.
In a complaint to the police, Patil said that Siddhartha told him to stop by the side soon as they drove on to the bridge and asked him to wait in the car at the end of the bridge as he wanted to walk up and had to make calls.
"When thee rain started, I took a u-turn and drove back to the spot where I left Sir and searched around for him. As it was dark, windy and raining, I could not find him anywhere on the bridge or in the river," Patil said in the complaint.
Siddhartha left Bengaluru on Monday afternoon to Sakleshpur near Hassan where he has a house and one of his coffee estates. As it was on way to Mangaluru, he told Patil to drive towards Mangaluru after a short break at Sakleshpur to fresh-up.
Siddhartha is the elder son-in-law of senior BJP leader, SM Krishna, who was External Affairs Minister in the UPA-2 government (2009-12) and state Chief Minister (1999-2004) when in the Congress.
CCD confirms founder Siddhartha's signature in note
Countering the Income Tax Department's claim, retail outlets chain The Coffee Day Enterprises has confirmed the authenticity of the letter its missing founder VG Siddhartha wrote to the company's board of directors on July 27.
"The board also reviewed a copy of the letter purportedly signed by Mr V. G. Siddhartha dated July 27, 2019, and has shared a copy of the letter with relevant authorities," the city-based firm said in a regulatory filing on the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE).
It also admitted that the note or letter circulating on social media was the last letter Siddhartha wrote to the board.
Suspecting that its founder-chairman could have committed suicide on Monday night on the basis of the complaint his driver filed with police, the company said the board had sought the assistance of local and state authorities in tracing him or his body, which seems to have sunk or been swept away in the Netravathi river after he jumped off the bridge.
"Our officers are also cooperating with the authorities as requested," added the filing, which was in response to the I-T Department's statement to the media here that Siddhartha's signature in the note to his company's board does not tally with the signature in his annual reports.
"The authenticity of the note is not known and the signature does not tally with Siddhartha's signature as available in his annual reports," said an I-T official in a statement here.
In a related development, the BSE sought clarification from the company on the I-T Department's claim that Siddhartha's last note was doubtful.
"Coffee Day Enterprises Ltd response is awaited," it said.