Thai tycoon's fintech firm calls lawsuit by 2 former staff in Singapore 'wholly unmeritorious'

Thai tycoon Chatchaval Jiaravanon invested US$10 million (S$13.4 million) to start Lightnet in 2018. PHOTO: VELO LABS

SINGAPORE - A fintech firm co-founded by Thai tycoon Chatchaval Jiaravanon in Singapore has been sued by two former employees over its alleged failure to issue cryptocurrency tokens promised to them.

In a statement in response to the lawsuit, the firm's board of directors said on Wednesday (Feb 16) that the claims brought by the pair are " wholly unmeritorious".

Mr Chatchaval's family controls Charoen Pokphand Group - one of the largest conglomerates in the world.

In 2018, he invested US$10 million (S$13.4 million) to start Lightnet, a remittance service that uses blockchain technology for international money transfers.

The Singapore firm that has been sued is part of the Lightnet network of companies.

In January, The Business Times reported that the two former employees - Mr Ilya Zusman and Ms Crystal Ma - are claiming an aggregate amount of US$1.37 million and a declaration that the company will release the remaining tranches of tokens still owed to them.

Court filings show that Mr Zusman and Ms Ma had entered into employment contracts and consultancy agreements with Lightnet between end-May and end-July 2020.

Under a token incentive plan outlined in the contracts, the pair were to have been entitled to receive VELO tokens in four equal tranches once their probation ended, BT reported.

VELO is a utility token ostensibly used in a digital ecosystem of money transfers.

Mr Zusman said in court filings that he received the tokens months later after making various demands. As a result, he suffered losses as the prices of VELO had fallen by then.

In its statement, Lightnet said Mr Zusman had duly received his first tranche of VELO tokens in August 2021, consistent with a deferral of the release of VELO tokens to all employees of the company.

Mr Zusman was "in fact involved in and participated in the decision to delay the aforesaid release, and was offered and did accept compensation for the delay", said Lightnet, adding that there is no legal or factual basis for Mr Zusman to resile from his prior agreement and belatedly claim alleged losses arising out of the agreed deferral.

Lightnet said that Mr Zusman's employment was subsequently terminated. As he was no longer with the company, any unvested VELO tokens were forfeited.

And such terms of the incentive scheme apply to every employee of the company, said Lightnet.

As for Ms Ma, she had left the firm in January 2021 before her extended probation, which was supposed to run until Feb 4, ended and before any VELO tokens were due to be allocated.

Hence, she was not entitled to receive any VELO tokens, the company said.

Correction note: This article has been edited for clarity.

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