A bailable warrant has been issued by the Delhi High Court against Sanjiv Gupta, the former MD and CEO of the now defunct online marketplace and classifieds business AskMe, reports VCCircle. The warrant was issued after Gupta apparently failed to appear before the liquidator investigating the alleged fraud at AskMe, though Gupta has denied this. Warrants have also been issued against two former directors of AskMe parent Getit Infoservices Private Limited – Sidharth Gupta and Grant Scott Ferguson.
Delhi HC had appointed a provisional liquidator in February this year, and at the same time had directed the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) to look into allegations of misappropriation of funds at Getit Infoservices. Earlier, in November last year, the court had ordered that an FIR should be launched against AskMe and AskMeBazaar for cheating and fraud, based on a complaint the court received from Limo Trading.
Timeline of AskMe’s troubled past
October 10th 2016: The Company Law Tribunal dismissed an application by AskMe employees looking to intervene in a case filed by former AskMe MD Sanjiv Gupta against the company.
September 2016: Sanjiv Gupta had filed a petition with the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) alleging oppression and mismanagement of minority shareholders. His lawyer told MediaNama that Gupta had filed this case in his individual capacity, and alleged that Gupta “was forced to resign (from the Getit board) under coercion, and that resignation has not been accepted as yet.” However, later we received a copy of the order issued by NCLT and it turned out the details shared by Gupta’s lawyer were incorrect. More here.
August 22nd 2016: Astro orders a forensic audit of AskMe operations.
August 18th 2016: AskMe suspends operations.
August 17th 2016: AskMe wrote a letter to the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) and the Registrar of Companies (RoC) seeking help in ensuring that Astro did not exit the business without paying its liabilities.
August 9th 2016: The ‘Salary’ department at AskMe sent an email to all its employees asking them to get in touch with Astro to get their salaries, because Astro was supposed to pay AskMe $5 million by 5th August. The email listed the names, phone numbers and email IDs of the Astro management for the employees to contact.
August 5th 2016: Manav Sethi, (now former) Group CMO & head of digital strategy at AskMe Group told MediaNama that the company did not have enough money to sustain its operations and support its 2,500 strong workforce because Astro was supposed to pay it by 31 July, which did not happen.
August 4th 2016: Unnamed employees at the AskMe Group wrote an open letter to Astro asking it to pay all outstanding dues till July 2016.
June 2016: The leadership team at AskMe made a bid to buy out Astro’s stake in the business. Manav Sethi, AskMe’s marketing and communication head for India and Malaysia had told MediaNama that “Astro is pulling out of all business its investments in India, because of the political and legal issues. The AskMe Group has made a management buyout bid, and leadership team is working towards taking over the company and is in advanced discussions with a few strategic and financial entities for next round of growth capital.” Note that Astro had acquired 50% stake in Getit in 2010 for around $20 million.
May 2016: AskMe denies layoffs, says 300 employees were moved to partner organizations.
April 2016: Reportedly, 650 employees were asked to leave AskMe.