Japan court gives Ness Wadia suspended prison term for possessing drugs

Ness Wadia | File photo: PTI
Ness Wadia, the 47-year-old son of Wadia Group patriarch Nusli Wadia, was handed a two-year prison sentence for drug possession in Japan recently, media reports said. The sentence was later suspended for five years. 

Japan's NHK reported that Japanese customs officials had arrested Wadia in early March after a search revealed he was bringing cannabis - a banned substance - into Japan. Ness, who was in Japan for skiing, was detained and the Sapporo District Court handed the sentence.

"Ness is now in India. The judgment is clear. It is a suspended sentence. Hence, it will not impact Ness Wadia in the discharge of any of his responsibilities and he will continue to play the role that he has done hitherto, both within the goup and outside," said a Wadia Goup spokesperson. 

In Japan, suspended sentences can be applied in cases where a sentence is up to 3 years in prison and/or 500,000 yen ($4,491) in fines. Any criminal activity during this period results in the cancellation of the sentence and imprisonment for the prescribed term.  

On Tuesday, the stocks of Wadia Group companies, including Bombay Dyeing and Bombay Burmah, declined after the media reported Wadia's arrest. Bombay Burmah closed 1.5 per cent down while the Bombay Dyeing stock closed 9.8 per cent down on the BSE. Britannia was down by 2.5 per cent. 

"This is a knee-jerk reaction of the stock market as Ness is not looking after the day-to-day management of any key company," said a market analyst. "Almost all Wadia group companies are professionally run and it is Jeh Wadia who is more hands on in the management of the company," he said, adding: "So, the impact will be minimal." 

Ness, who owns a stake in IPL team Kings XI Punjab, first made headlines in June 2014 when actress Preity Zinta complained to Mumbai Police and later to Bombay High Court against him, alleging he attacked her during an IPL match. Ness had denied the charges.

The matter was later settled out of court and the court dismissed the case in October 2018.

An alumnus of Cathedral & John Connon School in Mumbai, Ness, who loves high-end fast cars, joined Bombay Dyeing in 1993 as a management trainee at the age of 22. In 1998, he went to the University of Warwick to pursue a master's degree. After receiving his master's degree in 2001, he rejoined Bombay Dyeing and was promoted to joint managing director. In 2011, he stepped down from Bombay Dyeing after his younger brother Jeh took over as the MD. 

At present, Ness is the managing director of Bombay Burmah Trading Corp and also looks after the charity initiatives of the group. Ness is a director on the board of Wadia group's oldest firm Bombay Dyeing, and Britannia. The 283-year-old Wadia Group also runs Go Air. The Wadia family have a net worth of $7 billion.

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