Vasan Healthcare founder AM Arun dies at 52

Our Bureau Chennai | Updated on November 16, 2020

AM Arun

AM Arun, who took over his family’s single pharmacy shop in Trichy to build one of India’s largest network of eye care hospitals under Vasan Healthcare Group, passed away here on Monday. He was 52. The cause of his death is still unclear. Some media reports alleged suicide, while others cited ‘cardiac arrest’ as the reason for his death.

In 1991, Arun took over the reins of the family’s pharmacy business ‘Vasan Medical Hall’ in Trichy. In 2002, he forayed into the eye care business by setting up the first eye care hospital in Trichy. Soon after, Vasan became a household name for eye care and expanded its presence with over 100 hospitals spread across the southern States, providing world-class eye care treatment to more than 50 million people and conducting over 10 million successful procedures.

Embroiled in controversy

However, the rapid rise of Vasan Healthcare came to an abrupt halt as the healthcare group got enmeshed in money laundering and forex violation cases involving former Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram’s son Karti. In 2015, RSS ideologue and Chennai-based chartered accountant S Gurumurthy alleged that Karti Chidambaram had used firms to launder black money using the Vasan Eye Care hospital chain. The allegations were followed by Income Tax Department and Enforcement Directorate (ED) raids in several Vasan Healthcare hospitals.

Amid tax evasion controversies and deteriorating financial position, the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT), Chennai, in 2017 ordered the commencement of insolvency proceedings against the eye care network based on a petition filed by one of its suppliers, Alcon Laboratories.

However, a single judge of the Madras High Court stayed the insolvency proceedings. Nearly two years later, in October 2019, the Division Bench had vacated the stay and the case was back at the NCLT. However, the insolvency proceedings were further delayed due to various disputes related to the claims and the right to voting share of the members of the Committee of Creditors, among others.

In April 2019, a metropolitan magistrate court also issued non-bailable warrants against Arun and his wife Meera Arun for failing to appear before it in connection with a case pertaining to non-filing of income tax returns for the financial year 2014-15.

Once a prized unicorn, valued at more than $1 billion, Vasan Eye Care is now looking for potential bidders for its assets.

Published on November 16, 2020

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