At about 3 pm on Friday, there was an unusual change of guard at the three-acre Kingfisher Villa property in this part of Goa much favoured by tourists.
As vehicles of local administrators, asset management companies and police teams entered the palatial house and holiday retreat of Vijay Mallya, making their way out of the nearly 10-foot-high gate, carting their belongings and bearing the look of surrendered troops, were around 50 in-house staff members.
The cooks, gardeners, security staff, drivers and caretakers of the Kingfisher Villa hurried away, avoiding any contact with either the curious onlookers or the media.
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In the spot that may have been occupied by some of them till the other day was Radheshyam, of Mumbai-based ADF security services. He is an area manager with ADF, the “bouncer team” deployed by SBICAP Trustee Company Ltd, which took over the villa on Friday as part of the loan recovery process following a North Goa District Collector order.
Radheshyam said he had scattered 44 boys across the property, especially to cover the main gate, the adjacent road and the beach entry to the property. He himself stood at the gate, smiling broadly as he and his men were photographed by all drawn to the villa by the Kingfisher story. Noticing a tourist venturing too close for a selfie, holding up a ‘V’ sign, Radheshyam hurried across and tapped him on the shoulder, telling him to move aside.
That SBI would be moving in on the villa on Friday was known only to a few officials. “Initially we were told by our agency that that our client SBI’s property needed to be secured in Goa. It was much later that someone told us the property belonged to Mallya. Given the high-profile case, we were told to be keep a watch for media presence and be on our best behaviour,” Radheshyam said. “For some of us, visiting Goa itself is a first, let alone visiting Mallya’s mansion.”
Radheshyam and his team left Mumbai for Goa on Thursday evening, and met up with other teammates as well as bank officials and police to draw up an action plan early Friday morning, before proceeding on the eviction drive.
One of his team members didn’t hide his excitement at witnessing Mallya’s famed lifestyle up close. “Kya batayen, yeh bade logon ka ghar hai. Humein ek baar nazdeek se dekhne ka mauka mil gaya, bas vahi kaafi hai (What do we say, this is a house of big people. That we got a chance to see it up close is enough),” he says.
Besides their personal belongings, said Radheshyam, the villa’s staff were allowed to take away a few cars and furniture. The bank only has rights to the immovable property.
“But two cars are still on the premises. Proper authorisation is needed to take them away,” one of the new guards said.
As the day drew to a close and lights come on at the porch, Radheshyam passed around tea brought from a local shop, in paper cups. Besides them were strewn packets of eaten food rolls.
“We don’t know what is next or when we can go home. But as long as the company wants us here, we will be here,” a guard said.
Behind them, in the dark, stood the house once at heart of many a story of the rich and famous. Previous attempts to auction it at a base price of Rs 150 crore have been futile. As of now, there are no takers for Kingfisher Villa.