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A UK angel investor says Springleap founder Eran Eyal, who faces fraud charges in the US, misrepresented him as the chairman of an advisory board which the investor claims “never existed”.
The SA entrepreneur was charged on 24 August by the New York Attorney General with allegedly stealing $600,000 from investors by fraudulently soliciting investors to purchase convertible notes through false representations of his company, Springleap. If convicted of the top count charged, he faces up to 15 years in prison.
Eyal is due in court again on 24 October — after appearing on 11 September when he posted bail of $500 000, after spending three weeks in Rikers Island prison in New York.
One of the charges lodged by the New York Attorney General’s office is that Eyal allegedly misrepresented to investors the existence of an advisory board, “consisting of well-known successful and respected businessmen, though no such board ever met”.
Speaking to Ventureburn yesterday, the angel investor, Kevin Gaskell (pictured above) — who is the former managing director of Porsche GB — said when he became aware that his name was being used as the chairman of an advisory board for Springleap, along with a number of other “big names” he began asking several people a number of questions.
UK investor says he was falsely named as Eran Eyal’s Springleap advisory board chairman and says board never existed
In question is a press release — which appears on Bizcommunity dated 6 November 2014 — and announces that Springleap has secured a round of seed funding of $400 000 from angel investors Colenso Capital, Clearwater, Kevin Gaskell and Crystal Bay Capital.
Gaskell is quoted in the press release as saying that Springleap “had gained significant traction in a short amount of time with Fortune 500 brands and have a big vision to empower the creative industry”. In the release he is attributed as “chairman of Springleap advisory board”.
‘There was no advisory board’
Gaskell yesterday told Ventureburn that there was no advisory board. He said he was falsely named as the chairman of the board.
When asked by Ventureburn whether he had sight of the press release before Eyal issued it, Gaskell claimed he had not. He claimed that he only became aware of its contents at a later stage.
“All I can say is that he’s a clever communicator,” said Gaskell.
When Ventureburn first contacted Gaskell via Whatsapp messenger on 30 August to ask him to comment on the charges against Eyal, he appeared vague about having been an investor in Springleap.
In the call yesterday Gaskell said he had avoided responding in more detail, because he was under “strict instruction” from the New York Attorney General’s office, not to talk about the case.
He said he had been called as a witness by the New York Attorney General’s office and had given his testimony.
‘He told me Kevin was on board’
Colenso Capital investor Tim Leclecrq — who confirmed that he had invested $60 000 in Springleap in 2014 — said Eyal had informed him about the existence of a Springleap advisory board but that he was never on it or attended any of the meetings “if they happened at all”.
“He had told me that Kevin was on this advisory board along with other really big names,” he added.
Leclecrq said he first became aware that there was something not right about the investment when Eyal came back to the investors for more funding.
“Eran came back to investors for more funds and questions were asked about the use of funds from the prior round and one of the investors identified that things weren’t as had been disclosed,” he said.
Ventureburn attempted to get comment from Australia based Peter Binks, the managing director of Crystal Bay Capital, but Brinks did not respond, despite numerous attempts.
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Featured image: UK angel investor Kevin Gaskell (Supplied)