There have been plenty of tiffs between Indian startup boards and company founders, but there’s one that’s now reached the courts — and with some serious allegations.
BharatPe has filed a criminal case against former co-founder and MD Ashneer Grover and his family. The case was filed against Grover, his wife Madhuri Jain, who was also BharatPe’s Head of Controls, and three other family members, including Madhuri Grover’ss brother Shwetank Jain, her father Suresh Jain and her brother-in-law Deepak Gupta. BharatPe has sought Rs. 88 crore in damages from the accused, of which Rs. 83 crore was allegedly misappropriated by the Grovers, while it asked for an additional Rs. 5 crore for or the loss and injury caused to the BharatPe brand and applicable taxes.
The criminal complaint against Grover and his family has been filed on 17 counts, including criminal breach of trust, forgery, document fabrication, and embezzlement. BharatPe has made serious allegations about how Rs. 83 crore was allegedly siphoned off from the company. While BharatPe has gone public with these allegations before, it has now officially filed claims with the courts. Here’s a breakdown of where the company alleges the money was stolen.
1. Non-existent vendors: Rs. 72 crore
BharatPe alleges that Ashneer Grover and his family misappropriated Rs. 72 crore from the company through fake invoices made in the name of non-existent vendors. The payments were made to approximately 30 such vendors, and came to the attention of the GST department when the company claimed input tax credit on the payments.
2. Fake recruitment services: Rs. 7.6 crore
BharatPe alleges that Ashneer Grover and his family created fake recruitment firms which billed BharatPe for finding them candidates. But these recruitment firms, which were run by relatives of Ashneer Grover’s wife Madhuri, had no role in actually hiring these candidate — the candidates themselves had no knowledge of these firms. In court, BharatPe’s lawyer mentioned a certain Mr Behl, who was directly hired for a salary of Rs 1 crore, but fake vendor bills were created to charge the company a 15 percent commission on the hiring. BharatPe CEO Suhail Sameer too was shown to have been hired through a human resources (HR) vendor named “Vikas Enterprises” who was paid a commission, despite being hired directly by the company.
3. Interior design of BharatPe’s office by Madhuri Jain’s company: Rs. 1.85 crore
BharatPe alleges that Madhuri Jain, who was the Head of Controls at BharatPe, gave the contract to redesign the company office to her own interior design firm Mauve and Brown (M&B). Mauve and Brown was paid Rs 1.85 crore lakh for their services. BharatPe says these payments were made in violation of internal controls by arranging for fictitious quotes from “competitors”.
4. Using company guesthouse as personal residence: Rs. 52 lakh
Ashneer Grover and his family allegedly used a guesthouse that was initially requisitioned as a company guesthouse as their primary residence. The duplex apartment was located in the posh south Delhi neighbourhood of Panchsheel Park, and cost BharatPe Rs. 52 lakh in annual rent and security deposit. BharatPe also alleges that the Grover family used company funds to purchase home appliances such as LED television sets and a refrigerator.
5. Using company money to pay for family trips and vacations
BharatPe claims Ashneer and Madhuri Grover used company funds to take family vacations to Dubai and the United States. Also, for a trip to Dubai that the company arranged for its CXOs, Jain allegedly misappropriated funds to pay for visa-related expenses of family members. In another instance, BharatPe alleges that Madhuri Jain made the company pay for the Mumbai-Delhi flight tickets of her family members who did not work for the company.
6. Madhuri Jain’s skincare: Rs. 22,500
BharatPe even alleges that Madhuri Jain used the company’s money for her skincare routines — Madhuri Jain allegedly requested and received reimbursement for a Rs 22,500 skincare treatment.
BharatPe had made these allegations earlier as well, when it had gone ahead and fired Madhuri Jain for misappropriation of funds. But the company has now upped the ante, and has approached the courts and filed a criminal case. It remains to be seen how the case pans out, but for now, one of India’s most recognizable entrepreneurs is in the dock for having stolen crores from his own company.