Raj Travels owner Lalit Sheth
He was desperately trying to raise Rs 61 lakh that he owed slain matka king Suresh Bhagat’s brother Vinod, who owns the office in Sukh Sagar building at Girgaum Chowpatty from where the travel company operates.
Last year, Vinod had moved the Bombay High Court seeking eviction of the company from the premises, citing non-payment of dues.
The court deadline for Sheth to deposit the amount had ended in May, and on Wednesday (August 1), a hearing was scheduled at 4 pm.
On that fateful day, Sheth, who resided at Gandhi Building, opposite his office, left home early. In a last throw of dice, he had scheduled a meeting with an old friend at Andheri. The meeting didn’t go well.
Around 1.30 pm, more than two hours before the court hearing, he jumped off the Bandra Worli Sea Link, and his body was found washed ashore near the Worli Fort three hours later. Vinod, who confirmed that Sheth owed him money, was one of the many creditors who had refused to grant him more time, even as Sheth and his company continued to slip into a huge hole of debt.
They owed several crores of rupees to banks and tour operators, with whom they had tied up in their bid to offer hefty discounts to undercut competitors. Vinod told Mirror, “We had to recover money from Raj Travels, and the law will take its course. Considering the circumstances, I don’t wish to speak more on the matter.”
Sheth’s son Aakash, who is CEO of Raj Travels, refused to speak about the company’s finances. On Wednesday, he had said that his father’s death was “shocking”, considering he had handled the “ups and the downs in business” for long enough.
Travel industry sources, however, said there was no way out for Sheth, who feared that all his properties, including his house, could be mortgaged to pay off the debts. An industry veteran said, “The money had completely dried up.
The business was dwindling, and nobody in the industry wanted to deal with them.
The banks were not willing to extend any further credit.”
In his suicide note, Sheth mentioned that he was not able to fulfill commitments he made to his family. “I have failed to fulfill the commitments made to my family. I am sorry, I am responsible. Nobody should be blamed for my death,” the note said.
Copyright 2008 Bennett Coleman & Co. Ltd. . All rights reserved.