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Monday, November 30, 2020

Deceased owed money to two men held along with Arnab Goswami: Initial probe report

The report concluded that there was no evidence to indicate abetment to the suicide, and Anvay Naik took his life, as he had been under financial strain for six or seven years.

Written by Mohamed Thaver | Mumbai | Updated: November 9, 2020 8:08:31 am

The investigation report submitted by Inspector Suresh Varade, who initially probed the 2018 suicide case in which Arnab Goswami was arrested last week, had said that interior decorator Anvay Naik, who died of suicide, owed money to the two other men who have been arrested along with the Republic TV editor-in-chief.

The report concluded that there was no evidence to indicate abetment to the suicide, and Anvay took his life, as he had been under financial strain for six or seven years. It added that Anvay first strangulated his mother Kumud, whose body was found along with his, before killing himself.

Also Read | Anvay Naik suicide: Former Bombay HC judge expresses surprise over closure of case

Anvay had alleged in his suicide note that Goswami, Feroz Shaikh of Icastx Technologies Private Limited and Niteesh Sarda of Smartwork together owed him Rs 5.4 crore for carrying out work on their office premises, forcing him to take the extreme step. It was this note that led to the three being booked and investigated by the Alibaug police on the charge of abetment to suicide.

The 25-page investigation report, submitted to the magistrate court, had formed the basis of the closure report that was filed in the case by the police last April.

Anvay Naik’s family address reporters in Mumbai on Wednesday (Express photo)

According to the report, while Anvay owed Shaikh and Sarda, all dues owed to his Concorde Designs Private Limited (CDPL) were because of incomplete or poor quality of work.

The Naik family has alleged that Varade tried to scuttle the case and even tried to get them to sign off on a statement so that the case could be closed last January. Varade is now facing a departmental inquiry to determine if he was at fault.

Also Read | Arnab Goswami arrested: ‘Accused were not linked to each other, did not drive Naik to suicide’

The report shows that Varade issued summons to Goswami, Shaikh and Sarda. While Shaikh and Sarda appeared before him at the Alibaug police station, the report recorded that he was told by the Raigad SP not to summon Goswami to the police station but go to Mumbai instead to record his statement.

The Naik family has alleged preferential treatment to Goswami, and also that his statement was recorded in the office of a senior Mumbai Police officer. Varade’s report does not mention where the TV anchor’s statement was recorded.

Anvay’s suicide note had alleged that Goswami owed him Rs 83 lakh. Goswami, in his statement to the police, had said that work at office premises was not completed during the stipulated period and the quality was unsatisfactory, causing water to leak into the newsroom.

Also Read | Arnab Goswami arrest: Maharashtra is witnessing Emergency, says Fadnavis

“While I was not tracking the specifics of the transactions, I am aware that on October 21, 2017, we made a payment and as per my understanding, 85 to 90 per cent of the payment was made and the rest was to be made after the verification process,” Goswami had said.

Arnab Goswami shifted to Taloja central jail for ‘using cellphone’ at quarantine centre

Of the Rs 5.75 crore to be paid to Anvay as per the work order, the report stated that Goswami’s company ARG Outlier paid Rs 5.21 crore, and Rs 41 lakh to vendors. “It appears from the documents that Rs 13 lakh, which is less than eight per cent, was owed to CDPL,” the report had said.

This has been challenged by Anvay’s lawyer Vaibhav Karnik, who told The Indian Express that the documentation of these purported payments have been signed only by one party.

In her statement to the police, as quoted in the report, Anvay’s wife Akshata had said that Mohit Dhamne (company secretary and head of finance of Republic Media Network) had confirmed by email in August 2017 that Rs 83 lakh was due to CDPL. “It was informed to us by Mohit Dhamne that we should clear the issue with either Arnab Goswami or his wife. However, neither Arnab nor his wife were responding to our calls for meeting or giving us any appointment to meet them,” she had said.

Arnab Goswami being shifted from Alibag COVID-19 Quarantine Center dedicated to prisoners to Taloja Central Jail in Navi Mumbai on Sunday.
(Express Photo By Narendra Vasker)

Akshata had added that due to payments not being made by the three accused, CDPL started failing. Anvay was forced to distress sell his assets and mortgage and/or pledge family savings for the company and the firm. Defaults on payments led to banks starting charging penal interest, and suppliers insisting on returning unpaid inventories.

“Employees were forced to leave the company, as their salaries were not paid on time… Arnab Goswami did not stop at this but also influenced Mr Feroz Shaikh and Mr Niteesh Sarda and insisted that they do not clear the payments,” she had said.

As per the report, Shaikh, whose company provides various kinds of technology to TV channels, and who as per Anvay’s suicide note owed him over Rs 4 crore, claimed to have paid Rs 2.19 crore and Rs 1.62 crore to contractors in two installments.

Also Read | Arnab Goswami arrested: For Naik’s family, arrests ‘first step in battle for justice’

While appearing before the Alibaug police in May 2018, Shaikh said that after three to four months of giving CDPL the contract, some of the works remained incomplete. He added that he made payments to contractors in order to ensure work at his two sites was completed.

Varade wrote in his report, “Papers establish that instead of Rs 4.18 crore, Rs 4.78 crore were totally paid by Shaikh’s company and thus, it can be seen that Naik was to pay Shaikh Rs 59.93 lakh.”

Nitesh Sarda told the police that between September and November 2017, Anvay sent him WhatsApp texts demanding the money owed. Sarda added that he clarified to Anvay that since work was left incomplete, he would be charged damages. “It appears that Naik’s CDPL company owes Rs 39 lakh to Smart Work owned by Sarda,” the report said.

Also Read | Ensure he is treated fairly: Editors Guild on Arnab Goswami arrest

Varade had also recorded the statement of Anvay’s CA, who said the company was under financial strain. Based on documents provided by him, it appears that in March 2016 and 2017, the company was facing losses of over Rs 5 crore.

Varade had concluded that CDPL took contracts from the accused but did not manage to finish the work. “It also appears that he (Anvay) had not paid his employees and due to losses over six to seven years was under stress. Hence, at the Alibaug bungalow, he strangulated his mother, who was a director in the company and committed suicide. There does not appear to be any indication that the accused individually or together drove Naik to commit suicid,” he wrote.

When contacted, Akshata did not comment on the specific findings of Varade. “We have been patient and fought for justice… and it finally appears we may be getting justice.”

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