“Crime is what Aditya did to our families — life threat to our kids, rape threat and false brothel case threat and we are still living in tremendous fear, anxiety & insecurity (wish I could truly translate how it is to be in our shoes exactly). Our plea and cry to all those reading — Press, Entrepreneurs, Investors and Government officials is: Get Yogi out first and LET THE TRUTH PREVAIL!!!”
This is the latest plea from the Stayzilla CEO Yogendra Vasupal aka Yogi’s family and friends, in the most recent Medium post that surfaced late in the evening today. Through the post, they have raised one major question for the entire startup ecosystem and the Indian judicial system:
Is Yogi the real culprit? And if not, then WHAT’s THE TRUTH?
It has now been over nine days since Yogi has been in police custody. Friends, family and pretty much every Indian startup stakeholder, who were eagerly waiting for today’s bail plea, were left in despair when the plea was dismissed by the Special Metropolitan Magistrate court for CCB-CBCID. The court, in fact, has also granted one-day’s custody to the Central Crime Branch (CCB) in connection with the case.
Jigsaw, a Stayzilla vendor, had lodged a complaint at the Mylapore police station against both Vasupal and Singhi (Stayzilla Co-founders), accusing them of fraud. Yogendra was arrested last week on Tuesday by local authorities in Chennai on charges of defrauding the advertising agency.
Yogi had highlighted his case in a blog post where he had described how the founders were being threatened by their landlord & vendors ever since they decided to shut down operations and go for a reboot.
Post the backlash from the startup community, Jigsaw’s Aditya CS made claims that Stayzilla founders were trying to cheat him and that the company had never conveyed any deficiency in services to them.
For the outdoor ad where they claim there is a dispute, they did not clear the bill because they did not have money. I took approval of the sites where I was going to put up the hoarding from Stayzilla. I also have proof of delivery submission. They never contested my delivery. I have sent them multiple statements, they have acknowledged my invoices. I also said that if is any dispute, it has to be communicated within 7 days of sending invoice. None of this has happened. This is a false claim.
He went on to accuse the Stayzilla founders of committing fraud, including embezzlement of funds.
(We) have proof that these guys have siphoned money from the company accounts into their personal accounts (not Salary) and into accounts of their own family members who hold no position in the company,
While Jigsaw’s accusations of embezzlement were mostly unsubstantiated, Yogi’s family decided to clear the air and thwart all attempts of character assassination that were being thrown at them. After the audio-video clips and photographs disclosed in the initial post of Yogi ‘asking for help,’ the recent blog post is an attempt to prove Yogi’s innocence by providing documents against the related party transactions and thereby denying all syphoning claims.
Some of the major accusations of embezzlement were supported by highlighting related party transactions of the company, which are filed with the company ROC.
Yogi’s Family Tries To Clear The Air
In order to disprove these accusations, the family decided to come forward with documents supporting and justifying all major flagged transactions, including rental agreements, credit card bills and salary slips of the founders.
The monthly payout to Yogi’s dad is actually the monthly rental under a Rental Agreement for Yogi’s dad’s apartment that is Stayzilla’s registered office in R.A Puram, under Inasra Technologies Pvt Ltd since 2013 till date. This was not formalised in the initial years of occupation since 2007 but was done in 2013 after investments were received.
The post highlights that the salaries drawn by Yogi (INR 201,523 gross per month) and Sachit (INR 217,789) despite being the CEO and CFO, respectively, were less than what most of Stayzilla’s departmental heads made. It goes on to claim that Yogi and Sachit, despite repeated offers from investors and pressure from family members, had not cashed out on even a single share from their holding in the company.
Furthermore, it shares the statements of the founders’ corporate credit cards to justify payments made from the company accounts in their names. The statements clearly exhibits that the cards were indeed used for regular SaaS software billing for services like Github, AWS, JIRA etc.
“Before such grants of corporate credit cards from banks in the past, our online payments for servers etc., were made using Yogi’s Mother’s Amex card that still continues to be the registered card with our server company till date,” the blog mentioned.
The blog further questions how did a regular civil matter convert into serious criminal charges? As the abuse of the system continues, Yogi’s family is facing a new challenge every new hour, thereby delaying the bail process.
“Company is still ACTIVE. So criminalising a person who was solely and earnestly working towards these closures has blocked the path for everyone else for Aditya’s selfish reasons. It is not only hurtful to Stayzilla’s existing partners but also demoralizing for entrepreneurs across.”
The incident, amidst accusations of wrongful arrest, sparked agitation and revolt in the Indian startup ecosystem. In order to throw light on the issue and garner support, a website by the name of ‘Help Yogi’ was also created by industry headliners to gain support from the startup community.
Also, an open letter was sent to the Home Minister Rajnath Singh; Nirmala Sitharaman, Minister of State for Commerce and Industry; Amitabh Kant, CEO, Niti Aayog; Edappadi K. Palaniswami, Chief Minister, Tamil Nadu; Rajiv Mehrishi, Home Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs; Ramesh Abhishek, Secretary, Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion demanding Yogi’s immediate release and highlighting the issue.
Over 500 leading startup stalwarts including Paytm CEO Vijay Shekhar Sharma, Ola’s Bhavish Aggarwal, Mohandas Pai of 3one4 Capital came forward and signed the online petition to support Yogendra.
However it remains to be seen, while this legal arm twisting continues and despite the who’s who of the startup ecosystem coming forward in support of Stayzilla, when this nightmare will come to an end.