Mumbai: Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami and two others were granted bail Wednesday in a case of abetment to suicide dating back to 2018.
The case involves the suicide deaths of Anvay Naik, a Mumbai-based interior designer, and his mother Kumud Naik, on 5 May 2018 at their bungalow in Alibaug in Raigad district of Maharashtra. A one-page suicide note that the police found at the spot named Goswami, Neetish Sarda of Smartworks and Firoz Shaikh of IcastX/Skimedia, for allegedly failing to pay dues of Rs 83 lakh, Rs 55 lakh and Rs 4 crore, respectively, to Anvay Naik’s company, Concorde Designs Private Limited.
The Raigad police had closed the case last year after filing ‘A Summary Report’, which is done when allegations in a complaint are found to be true, but there’s no evidence to prosecute. However, the case was reopened in October this year with the police claiming fresh evidence had come to light. The police also said the complainant, Naik’s wife Akshata, was not given a chance to have her say before the case was closed. On 4 November, the police arrested Goswami, Sarda and Shaikh.
However, documents accessed by ThePrint from the Registrar of Companies show that Anvay Naik and Concorde Designs’ financial distress ran much deeper than just the money these three individuals’ firms allegedly didn’t pay up.
By 2016, Concorde was suffering heavy losses, had debt close to Rs 20 crore and several disputes with tax authorities. Until 2012, Anvay Naik was also director and shareholder in a construction firm, Om Atharva Realtors Private Limited, co-owned by a local Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) functionary from Thane, Manoj Pradhan. This company too was making losses before it was eventually ‘struck-off’, meaning removed from the Registrar of Companies listing.
ThePrint approached Anvay Naik’s wife Akshata and daughter Adnya for comments about this report through calls and text messages, but they didn’t respond. Their lawyer, Vaibhav Karnik, said: “Anvay Naik may have had ups and downs earlier and faced losses in his firm and due to his other business engagements, but he came out of it. He bounced back. In this case, we have evidence that there was a concerted effort to pressurise him, which seemed to be the final trigger.”
On behalf of the police, Ashok Dudhe, Raigad’s superintendent, said: “We are still investigating the case so I cannot comment on this now.”
25% shares in loss-making Om Atharva
In 2006, Naik, who was already managing director of Concorde Designs Pvt Ltd, associated himself with another company, Om Atharva Realtors Private Limited, less than a month after it was incorporated.
Documents from the Registrar of Companies show that Om Atharva filed its last annual returns and balance sheet for the financial year ending March 2012, showing that the company had no income, a loss of a measly sum of Rs 470, and some cash dealings to do with land assets that were not elaborated upon in the filings.
A balance sheet filed for the year 2010-11 shows that Om Atharva, in which Naik was a designated signatory for all documents, had advances receivable of Rs 2.63 crore, and payable of Rs 6.41 crore. The documents also show that the company had no work in progress.
Om Atharva Realtors has been ‘struck-off’ by the Registrar of Companies — a company cannot perform any operations once it has been struck off. If a company has not started its business operations within a year of its incorporation, or has not been actively carrying on any business for two financial years, and hasn’t made an application for obtaining the status of a dormant company, the Registrar of Companies can strike it off. The company itself can also apply for it.
Naik held 25 per cent of Om Atharva’s shares, NCP’s Manoj Pradhan held 50 per cent, while the other 25 per cent were held by one Shailendra Maheshwar Kumar.
Pradhan, Naik’s co-director, became a controversial figure. He was briefly appointed the chief of NCP’s Thane unit in 2014, but went on to be embroiled in an alleged fraud involving funds of a temple trust, of which he was the chairman. In 2018, the Thane rural police booked him for allegedly misappropriating funds of the Vajreshwari temple trust to the tune of Rs 3.22 crore.
Anand Paranjape, the current Thane NCP president, told ThePrint: “Pradhan is now neither a functionary in the party nor active in its affairs, even as a karyakarta (worker). We have no record of where he is, or what his contact details are.”
Debt of nearly Rs 20 crore
Anvay Naik owned 60 per cent of Concorde Designs, which had entered into a contract with ARG Outlier Media, which owns Republic TV, for designing its newsroom at Mumbai’s Bombay Dyeing Mill Compound. His mother Kumud Naik owned the other 40 per cent.
As mentioned before, Concorde was battling financial distress for a few years before Naik’s death, and had also locked horns with the tax authorities in a number of disputes.
In the financial year 2015-16, the last record available with the Registrar of Companies, Concorde Designs posted a loss of Rs 4.45 crore, despite having a revenue of Rs 36.26 crore that year.
A realtor and politician who had met Naik on two occasions for work-related discussions, and did not want to be identified, claimed: “An interior designer’s fee is just 5 to 8 per cent of the total work, and Anvay Naik had almost Rs 6 crore worth of pending dues. All equipment providers started hounding him for money. The nature of the work is such that despite a good topline, the actual profits will be at the most 7 to 8 per cent.”
In 2014-15, there was a small profit of Rs 12.26 lakh, while the year before, Concorde had registered a loss of Rs 8.21 crore. In 2015-16, the company’s net worth plummeted by 165.72 per cent, and it had a debt pile of Rs 19.57 crore.
The 2015-16 auditors’ report for Concorde noted: “According to the records of the company, the company is irregular in depositing with appropriate authorities undisputed statutory dues.”
Concorde Designs had at least seven disputes pending over the payment of value added tax, the central sales tax and income tax, amounting to Rs 9.74 crore.
In 2018, Naik’s daughter Adnya, who was once an international lawn tennis player, revived her father’s business by registering a new company — Adnya Naik Designs Private Limited — with mother Akshata.