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Friday, May 07, 2021

On Varun Hiremath’s trail in Mumbai, locked homes and offices

It is learnt that the family lost no time in going underground after the FIR against Varun was filed at the Chanakyapuri police station in New Delhi on February 23 based on a complaint filed by a 22-year-old woman.

Written by Jayprakash S Naidu | Mumbai |
Updated: April 11, 2021 11:01:29 am
On Hiremath’s trail in Mumbai, locked homes and officesThe Indian Express spoke to Varun Hiremath's colleagues, visited the family’s homes, offices, and the “research and development centre” of their company.

It’s been more than one month after a woman in New Delhi filed a complaint of rape against Varun Hiremath, the 28-year-old news anchor at ET Now, and police say they have no idea where he and his family members are.

This despite the fact that the pharma business his Mumbai family owns continues to hum in their absence. They have locked up their multiple homes in south Mumbai and appear to have cut away from their influential social and business network.

A Delhi Police team did visit Mumbai in the third week of March, by when Hiremath and his family had been gone a month.
The Indian Express spoke to Varun Hiremath;s colleagues, visited the family’s homes, offices, and the “research and development centre” of their company.

It is learnt that the family lost no time in going underground after the FIR against Varun was filed at the Chanakyapuri police station in New Delhi on February 23 based on a complaint filed by a 22-year-old woman. On Friday, the Delhi High Court ordered that Hiremath not be arrested till the next date of hearing in case he joins the investigation as and when directed by police.

Hiremath has been with ET Now, a TV channel owned by the Times group in Mumbai, since June 2019 as an equity analyst, as per his LinkedIn profile. Emailed questions sent to the media group on March 29 on what action has been initiated against him drew a blank.

Said a co-worker on the condition that he not be named: “He has not reported to work since the day he was booked in the rape case. He has switched off his phone and has not replied to any calls and messages made by the company or by any of us, his colleagues.”

The Indian Express visited three apartments in South Mumbai where the Hiremaths have homes.

At Jal Kiran building in Cuffe Parade, an address that shows up in all their official documentation, a security guard said: “The Hiremaths do not live here. They had rented their apartment on the first floor for the past year. But since January, the apartment is vacant and the house is locked. Last week, Delhi police visited this place and put up a notice.”

The notice on the door is a court order dated March 19 issued by a Delhi magistrate. It states that Hiremath has been booked in a rape case and that he “has absconded or is concealing himself to avoid the service of the warrant”.

The order says that he is required to appear on or before the next date of hearing, May 6.

They have apartments in two buildings at Navy Nagar, where identical notices have been reportedly pasted. While Varun stayed in an apartment on the first floor at Oyster building, his parents stayed on the first floor of the twin Dolphin building.

A security guard at Oyster said, “The family left with all their luggage back in February. They did not inform anyone before leaving. We got to know about the rape case through newspapers…We have no idea where they are. We told this to Delhi Police.”

Varun’s Facebook profile has only two posts, a photograph of the Mumbai skyline dating to 2012, and another of his college graduation day. He has two Instagram profiles. His work insta page has not been updated since February 17, a week before the rape case. His personal profile is private and locked.
Calls to Varun and his mother yielded switched off numbers. The newspaper also tried contacting Varun’s father Ashok Hiremath, founder, managing director and non-independent executive director of Astec Life Sciences Limited.

Guards at the R&D centre of the company in Dombivali (east) said he was not present there and that he hardly ever visited the place. The R&D centre is functioning. “He sits at their office in Fort area,” a guard said.

At the company’s corporate office on the seventh floor of Elite square building, at Perin Nariman Street in Fort, a security guard said, “The office is closed due to pandemic. Mr. Ashok used to come here but since the office is closed from last year, nobody is coming here. You may find him at his Vikhroli office.”

The corporate office of Ashok Hiremath’s Astec Lifesciences Ltd in Vikhroli (east) has been shut since March 27. Ashok Hiremath’s two brothers, who stay in two separate apartment buildings, were unreachable. The newspaper also tried to contact colleagues of Ashok Hiremath. Said a senior board member of Astec Lifesciences Ltd: “I am not aware of the incident (rape case). I am not going to office these days so I am not aware if Ashok has been coming.”

A senior police officer from Delhi Police who is investigating the case said, “We have a non- bailable warrant issued against him and have also issued a look out circular (LOC) in case he tried to leave the country. We have multiple teams spread out in multiple cities looking for him.”

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