[UPDATE] Accel-Backed Mooofarm Caught In Crossfire Of Embezzlement Allegations Between Founders And Finance Head

[UPDATE] Accel-Backed Mooofarm Caught In Crossfire Of Embezzlement Allegations Between Founders And Finance Head

Mooofarm filed a police complaint against former finance head Vineet Bhati alleging embezzlement of INR 10 Cr

In response, Vineet Bhati, has countered with his own allegations and had filed a police complaint against the founders of the company for alleged fraud of at least INR 45 Cr

Bhati also claimed Mooofarm's investors were apprised of the alleged fraud in July 2023, raising questions about what will happen to Mooofarm

UPDATE | July 27; 23:00 IST

Former Mooofarm head of finance Vineet Bhati has responded to the allegations of embezzlement and countered with more allegations about a total embezzlement of INR 45 Cr said to have been carried out by the “management of Mooofarm Pvt. Ltd.”

Bhati also said that he had filed a police complaint on July 13, 2023, a week before Mooofarm’s own complaint. Inc42 has seen a copy of this complaint which alleges that the company’s management was involved in fraudulent activities related to unauthorised investments and lost company funds in stock and derivatives (Future and Options) trading from January 2021.

He also alleged that management was using the personal bank account of other employees from August 2021 to June 2023 to create a fake revenue of INR 130 Cr, and that even investors were misled by these figures. Both these facts were also sent to fund managers of Mooofarm’s key investors, two days after the complaint by Mooofarm was filed. Inc42 has seen a copy of the email.

We have reached out to Mooofarm’s founders and the investors named above with more questions on the barrage of allegations. Watch out for our continuing coverage on Mooofarm.

We have updated our original story below with more details based on Bhati’s comments and his side of the story.

Agritech startup Mooofarm has filed a police complaint against Vineet Bhati, the company’s head of finance, for allegedly embezzling funds from the company’s accounts for personal gains.

According to sources close to Mooofarm, the alleged embezzlement was discovered in the beginning of July 2023, and is said to have been going on for the past 3-4 months. The complaint is said to have been filed with the Gurugram Police (Sector-5) on July 20, 2023.

Sources also told Inc42 that Bhati is said to have syphoned out more than INR 10 Cr from the dairy-tech startup and transferred it to his personal account as well as trading account associated with investing in derivatives and options.

The company declined to reveal the modus operandi of the alleged embezzlement or speak about how far back it goes but confirmed the development in a statement shared with Inc42, reproduced in full below:

“Mooofarm has filed a police complaint against its Head of Finance for embezzlement of an unspecified amount of money from their head office in Gurgaon. The employee in question unlawfully made multiple fund transfers from the Company’s bank account into his personal account using it to participate in trading of high-risk derivatives and options,” a Mooofarm spokesperson said.

The statement added “The employee in question has submitted his confession over email owning up to the fraud. Company has also obtained financial records of the illegitimate transactions and has submitted the details in the police complaint. Mooofarm takes this incident extremely seriously and will make every effort to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future. The Board of Mooofarm and its investors remain committed to building a world class Dairy-as-a-Service Agtech and are fully aligned with the steps taken by the management of the company.”

In his response, Bhati laid out allegations about the money being invested through Zerodha by Mooofarm founders Paramjeet Singh, Abhijeet Mittal, Jitesh Arora and Aashna Singh.

“They have intentionally done these investments to gain higher returns to pay off [dues] and restart their previous company namely AVTEG Pvt. Ltd. which is under the recovery proceedings from Punjab Govt, Jammu Govt, TDS Dept, PF Dept, Employee dues and Vendor dues for an amount of INR 15 cr approx,” Bhati told Inc42.

Mooofarm management’s complaint has not yet been registered as an FIR (first information report) by the police, we were told by our sources, and the actual amount alleged to have been embezzled might change in the final FIR as and when it is registered.

As is typical in such cases, law enforcement authorities conduct independent inquiries about the complaint before registering an FIR. Police can only take action against any alleged fraud once the FIR has been registered.

Depending on the severity of the allegations and the police’s findings at this stage, the potential FIR may be transferred to financial crime divisions.

Vineet Bhati’s Long Association With Mooofarm

Founded in 2019 by Param Singh, Aashna Singh, Jitesh Arora and Abhijeet Mittal, MoooFarm offers a dairy-as-a-service full-stack platform where farmers can buy cattle and other livestock for dairy farming, access telehealth and balanced nutrition services from veterinarians that are said to increase milk yield, and also get financing aid to manage operations and buy dairy inputs.

Till date, the Gurugram-based startup has raised over $16 Mn from investors such as Accel, Aavishkaar Capital,  Aditya Birla Ventures (ABV), Rockstart, Navus Ventures as well as venture debt fund Alteria Capital. Its most recent round was a Series A in December 2022.

While not a cofounder, Bhati was employed with the company ever since it was founded in July 2019. Given his tenure, he is likely to have been a key figure in the agritech startup’s growth in the past four years.

In FY22, Mooofarm reported INR 50.73 Cr in revenue from operations, a near-50X jump from the INR 1.2 Cr revenue stated in FY21. The company remained in the red despite scaling up its revenue. Losses for FY22 grew to INR 14.84 Cr, a 5X jump from FY21’s INR 3.2 Cr loss.

About the revenue, Bhati claimed that FY23 revenue had touched INR 120 Cr, but alleged that “90% of the revenue of the company is fake and illegal,” – Bhati.

Bhati’s response claims embezzlement was done through fake tech and marketing vendors, as well as fake employees where the money was being syphoned out of the company.

He further claimed revenue was being shown as coming in through several fake customers. Mooofarm’s founders are alleged to have not just used fake employees to send money out of the company, but also rotate funds in the company’s current account shown as sales and purchases of cattle through fake customers.

“During the day, they used to rotate the same funds multiple times. They started pressuring the finance team to reduce the TAT [turnaround time] between the funds receipt transaction and funds payment transaction so that rotation can be more in a day [sic]”

These allegations are seen in Bhati’s criminal complaint and also his email to investors in July 2023.

At one point during his stint in the company, Bhati was classed as a promoter and held 5,000 equity shares in the company till September 2021.

In May 2021, he transferred 3,200 shares to Australian LLC DoGoodles Pty Ltd, followed by 1,200 shares transferred to cofounder Mittal and 600 shares to cofounder Arora in September 2021. Essentially, at the end of FY22, he held zero shares in the company and his remuneration for the year was INR 14,00,000.

“The management without knowledge, consent and intimation transferred 5,000 shares in their name (at a per share price of INR 23, however the value per share was INR 60,000 approx at that time) and removed me from the post of Director acting in a dishonest and fraudulent manner and made me a Financial Head on 08.09.2021. The Management have misused and abused me only to get the financial benefit, advantage and personal gains,” Bhati alleged in his response.

How The Embezzlement Was Caught

Sources close to the company claim that so far there is no more action being mulled besides the police complaint. They added that the discrepancy was more easily discovered since these were transfers made by Bhati to his personal account.

“They (the management) saw some fabrication in the monthly income statements shared by Vineet (Bhati) with the shareholders. When questioned he is said to have confessed immediately,” said one of the sources who had first-hand knowledge of the development.

Additionally, we were told that investors such as Accel, Aavishkar and others were immediately informed, after which the police complaint was filed by the company’s founders.

But even Bhati has apprised Mooofarm’s investors about the alleged fraud, and amid this crossfire of allegations, we have to wonder what will happen to Mooofarm.

Our coverage of Mooofarm will continue through the next few days, at the very least. Stay tuned for a deeper story on the agritech startup.

Update Note | July 27; 23:00 IST

  • We have changed the headline of this story. The original headline was: “Accel-Backed Mooofarm Alleges INR 10 Cr Embezzlement By Finance Head; Files Police Complaint”
  • Some portions of the original article were removed based on Vineet Bhati’s responses.
  • We have prominently highlighted the portions that include Vineet Bhati’s responses.
  • The original version of the story claimed that Vineet Bhati was a director in the company till December 2022, when he resigned in October 2021. We regret this error.
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[UPDATE] Accel-Backed Mooofarm Caught In Crossfire Of Embezzlement Allegations Between Founders And Finance Head-Inc42 Media
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