Stayzilla CEO Arrested; Black Magic Dolls Sent to Threaten Staff

Yogendra Vasupal, CEO of Stayzilla, the online homestay network which recently shutdown to be ‘rebooted’, has been arrested by the Chennai police.

He was remanded to custody on Tuesday on charges of defrauding an ad agency of Rs 1.72 crore, according to The Times of India. While the TOI reports says that he has ‘confessed’, his wife has stated in a blog that he has not.

The blog post also contains an alleged account of the events that led to his arrest as well as images of the black magic dolls sent to his co-founder Sachit Singhi. In the post, Vasupal alleges that the dolls were also sent to his family to intimidate them.

Jig Saw Ad Agency Files Complaint

The Central Crime Branch of Chennai police is reported to have arrested him after a complaint was filed by Chennai-based advertising professional Aditya CS of Jig Saw ad agency. The complaint stated that Vasupal shut down Stayzilla because he owed Aditya money.

The complainant also stated that Vasupal and Stayzilla CFO Sachit Singhi had not cleared bills for over a year, and that the two had intimidated him.

TOI reports that a team led by Assistant Commissioner of Police, S Muthuvel Pandi, and Inspector Anand Babu of the entrustment fraud wing of the Central City Crime branch questioned Yogendra Vasupal.

The blog post, which seems to have been drafted by Vasupal but published after his arrest on 15 March at 2:22 am by his wife Rupal, goes into detail about his conflict with two people. He accuses the landlord of his Bengaluru office, who is also a local politician, and the agency that he refused to pay owing to a “deficiency in services”.

“Help! I Need Everybody...”

The post, titled ‘Help! I need everybody’ also includes CCTV footage of a man, identified by Vasupal as the local politician, attacking one of his staff members, as well as audio-recordings of his conversation with the cops in Chennai.

Vasupal alleges that the landlord had been intimidating and harassing his staff members for a long time. He says the landlord was allegedly agitated over a payment for which he had got a post-dated cheque for 7 March.

However, after the assault, Vasupal says he approached the police to file an FIR.

Tiff With the Landlord

He writes: “I found out that the land lord had returned to the office with a lot of his folks roaming in front of the office in bikes and on feet. I again had to escalate the matter to a senior official to get him out of the office because everybody in the police station still refused to do anything about it. Keep in mind the FIR was already filed by then. The senior officer was informed by my Lawyer that he would inform the media and have a reporters with TV Cameras at the office with in 1 hour. The senior officer acted fast and got 2 flying squads to the office to contain the Landlord.” (sic)

Yogendra VasupalWhen I got to the office I found 10 Policemen there to protect. ~4 of them inside with the land lord, remaining outside. The Landlord was comfortably seated and the policemen were pleading with him to leave the premises, which he did after 2 & 1/2 hours of cajoling. I thanked the police and told them that I understood their compulsion. (sic)

As for the ad agency, Vasupal says he had stopped paying them on account of their "severe deficiency in services", which he is open to fight in court.

He insists that it is a civil matter between the agency and the company, and he cannot be arrested for it. He also accused the Chennai police of misleading him.

On Sunday, I got to know that the complaint filed against us had false accusations like Sachit going to the vendor’s office to threaten with 2 henchmen of some MLA. That I used to call him and threaten him of dire consequences if he pursued the matter. I laughed and said I had never spoke to him and would love for him to get any call records proving the same. And that Sachit was the one who was threatened by people visiting office and on call. We even had the CCTV footage of those henchmen coming to our office. At that point I thought that this vendor was smart to have used his illegal actions as the template of his complaint against us. Now in hindsight, with the bad faith shown, I am not sure if it was the vendor who was smart or was he being guided by the Inspector/higher ups to protect himself better,” (sic) Vasupal says in the blog.

Photos of the dolls, accompanied by an image of Stayzilla CFO Sachit Singhi’s child, that were allegedly sent to his house on 9 March. (Photo Courtesy: The News Minute)

The last update on the blog is as follows, by his wife Rupal.

Rupal Yogendra, Yogendra’s Wife and Co-founder of StayzillaHe was taken to the magistrate at 10.00pm though courts do not function after 6pm. His whereabouts from when the cops took him into custody today from 11.am to 6.00pm where not known and the lawyer and our family had to go from one station to another looking for him. This shows how money and influence can supercede true and thorough investigation in a country which talks so much about start-ups and culture. Now after the inappropriate article by Times of India(online-above mentioned), wondering if it has anything to do with Jig Saw Solution and Advertising owner, Mr. Aditya CS’ dad being a part of the press and wielding his influence there also. (sic)

Ashish K Mishra, senior writer of The Ken, had tweeted for help and posted an email sent by Sanchit Singhi, co-founder of Stayzilla. The email stated that Vasupal was missing and that his family did not know of his whereabouts.

(The article was originally published on The News Minute. )