The saga of blockchain startup Otonomos continues as the firm has submitted a writ of summons and statement of claim against its former CEO, Han Verstraete, in the High Court of Singapore.
The public document, seen by Tech in Asia, contains allegations against Verstraete that had not surfaced before, including mishandling of company funds and hijacking company email accounts after his termination.
In the meantime, the original Otonomos.com domain now shows an Ethereum crowdfunding campaign by Verstraete to raise legal funds.
Verstraete, who was CEO and founder of Otonomos, first alleged he was being forced out of the company in late September through a post on Medium. He then made specific allegations against the startup’s board of directors in a follow-up post that involved board members Dymon Asia Ventures’ Christiaan Kaptein, Fenbushi Capital’s Remington Ong, and Otonomos CTO and current interim CEO Manogaran Thanabalan.
The board currently consists of Kaptein, Ong, Thanabalan, and Verstraete.
The writ we saw includes, among other things:
- Allegations that Verstraete repeatedly mishandled company funds for his personal use, including traveling abroad, making personal expenses, transferring company funds to his personal bank accounts, and withholding cryptocurrency funds from the company. Otonomos alleges losses to the tune of at least US$410,000.
- Allegations that Verstraete entered into an advertising deal for the company’s logo to appear on a yacht during a boat race in Hong Kong. Otonomos claims the US$120,000 deal was “extravagant and unreasonable” for the startup and that Verstraete decided to go ahead with it regardless.
- Allegations that Verstraete paid himself additional salary on top of his regular one for a number of months during 2016 and 2017. The writ alleges that Verstraete admitted this during a board meeting.
- Allegations that Verstraete diverted company resources to another company he founded while running Otonomos, called Peerfinds. Peerfinds is a mobile app that lets users recommend restaurants, shops, and places to stay.
- Allegations that Verstraete, after being fired as CEO by the board, hijacked the Otonomos.com domain and impersonated Thanabalan in email correspondence to Otonomos clients.
In the writ, Otonomos further alleges that the board repeatedly notified Verstraete about these issues and called him to board meetings, to which it says Verstraete only offered partial explanation. According to the document, Verstraete was terminated from his CEO position because of this.
Otonomos has not commented further on the situation, as it seems legal proceedings are underway.
In a statement to Tech in Asia, Verstraete denied these allegations. “Their claim is saturated with falsehoods. The allegations will be eliminated one by one in the court procedure and we should allow this process to run its course,” he said.
Verstraete further confirms that the Otonomos.com domain is registered in his name. Otonomos has since switched to Otonomos.io and is currently operational.
Dymon Asia Ventures sent the following statement to Tech in Asia: “We strongly refute any allegation of impropriety, wrongdoing, or unethical behavior by Dymon Asia Ventures or any Dymon employee.”
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