Son of Indian tycoon sentenced in Japan over drugs possession

Ness Wadia, a scion of one of India’s wealthiest business families, has been sentenced for drugs possession while on a skiing holiday to Japan.

Mr Wadia, an heir to the 283-year-old Wadia Group and co-owner of the Kings XI Punjab cricket team, was arrested in early March at New Chitose Airport in the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. 

According to a brief report carried by a local Hokkaido station of state broadcaster NHK, customs officials at New Chitose were alerted to Mr Wadia by sniffer dogs and a search revealed that he had about 25g of what appeared to be cannabis resin in his trouser pocket. 

Mr Wadia, 47, is the eldest son of group chairman Nusli Wadia, one of India’s richest tycoons with a net worth of $7bn, according to Forbes.

Ness Wadia is a director of all the major units of the family group, which traces its history to a 1736 deal to build ships for the East India Company. It now has businesses ranging from biscuit giant Britannia Industries to budget airline GoAir, with the total market valuation of its listed entities standing at $13.1bn.

A court official in Sapporo told the Financial Times that Mr Wadia admitted to possession, arguing that the drug was for his personal use. Japan’s narcotics laws are strict and are currently being applied especially tightly, say criminal lawyers, ahead of this year’s Rugby World Cup and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Mr Wadia spent a period in detention before his indictment on March 20 and an undisclosed period of detention before a court hearing. The Sapporo District Court handed him a two-year prison sentence, which was suspended for five years. 

Nusli Wadia: His son Ness Wadia was seen as his likely successor until 2011 © EPA

He had flown via Hong Kong to visit Niseko — a resort that has become a favourite destination for skiers from across Asia in search of some of the world’s best powder snow.

Mr Wadia has since left Japan and has returned to India. He declined to comment.

He had been widely seen as his father’s likely successor until 2011, when he was replaced as managing director of Bombay Dyeing, a major group business, by his younger brother Jeh.

Ness Wadia took charge of the smaller Bombay Burmah company, which has for three consecutive years sought special government permission to pay him remuneration of Rs34.99m ($500,000), which exceeds the maximum ratio to profits stipulated in India’s companies act.

He became a fixture in India’s gossip columns during his relationship with Bollywood star Preity Zinta, who accused him of molestation and intimidation after an altercation at a 2014 cricket match. Mr Wadia strongly denied the allegations, which were dismissed by the Bombay High Court last October.




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