Hi, thanks for dropping by. This is going to be a long read :D as I try to give the background events and like a thriller novel, plot twists are included.
I'm from the digital industry and many years back I started my own company. Everything was fine until a fateful joint venture (JV) went wrong. It was the first time I encountered what one would call sharks. While they would contribute majority of the development funds, my company will see that the product is well developed by providing manpower, expertise and billable time. Around this time, my company had also been in touch with a government agency for a possible development grant specifically for a game project and a list of names submitted for application. (you will see how this also soon would come into play)
We seconded all the developers into the JV around early 2010, including those listed in the grant application and work started. Sometime in July 2011, the grant was approved. By then, my team was already committed in the JV company. They agreed to work on the game project on their free time and over weekends in exchange for profit share and mainly just happy to be working on a game project which was their interest and passion. More developers grew interested in the project, more than originally planned and I thought to just divide up the grant monies accordingly together with profit share. There was of course a need to inform the government agency if there were any changes, however, it was a silent industry agreement that so long as the project was produced, we can just keep the paper work as is. Even the government folks I was engaged with knew that. (but no one would publicly say it of course)
Along the way, differences in opinions with JV partner and their constant change of requirements made the project difficult to manage. While we were supposed to be directing the project, they started to infringe and override several decisions based on their own judgement. They also accumulated owing to my company which were recorded in the accounts of up to about $70,000 for our part relating to the development. The mental pressure to work on the two projects began to take a toll on me.
The JV was to produce a translation software but when it was about 90% complete, the partner raided the office and forced everyone out and started a civil suit claiming 90% of the cost of development (over $350,000). they now have full control of the source codes. They claimed that my company used resources on our own project as an excuse but knowing full well that their own product was already close to completion. So they started a civil suit which I fought claiming that the staff worked during free time and after office hours and never impacted the JV project but instead it was their own constant change of requirements that caused the delays if any. And we finally settled. (My first time in such a legal mess) To avoid a long litigation against a listed company I agreed to $120,000 to them, $50,000 in cash and remaining pending valuation of the JV company. (part of the cash was from the grant I mentioned earlier) I took the stand that there was valuable Intellectual Property and the value should be more than at least $300,000. In addition they hinted to report the matter to Commercial Affairs a government police agency if I did not settle. (They reported anyway.)
During the settlement process they refused to provide any information until one day they produced an 'audited' version which shows the amount owings to my company. And then they retracted, and produced another similar version and then retracted again to produce a completely different 'totally in favor of them' version - removing the owings to my company. Despite all these shanigans, the independent auditor valued the JV company at 1 to 3 million dollars. You think we won but they simply sacked the auditor and requested for fresh valuation. It was a 'wtf' moment for me and my shareholders. Legally, they played well, they knew how to maneuver.
Then came the icing, the commercial affairs visited me and took all my documents and I was subjected to three years of interrogation (they investigated at their own time, I was in limbo land). All my statements to them was recorded and I panicked when it came to the grant application which had the team member names on it while they were working in the JV project paid by salaries from the JV. I had in the moment of claiming the grant, issued vouchers in the team members name and had on bad judgement and pressure, simply forged their signatures on the vouchers. I had always thought delivering the product was paramount over paperwork and administrative work. There were at least a dozen developers that worked on the project and it eventually went on the app store!
Eventually I was charged and criminal suit brought on me for 'cheating' the government. At that time, I was at a loss and my mind went blank. Took me a while to process what has transpired. I was prepared to plead guilty for the forgery but the cheating charge did not sit well in my soul. What happened to the product that was actually developed? What happened to the fact I paid out to the JV to settle the original claim that I used their resources. Can this administrative error in handling the paperwork turn into a custodian sentence of at least a year? Despite the many years of relationship with the government prior to this event.
I went through numerous pre-trial discussions. Initially the state prosecutors refused to entertain any representations we sent to reduce or remove the charges. I had to let my initial lawyer go and appoint another. The initial lawyer had been with me in earlier years and a friendship had formed. However, he seem to have lost his ability to focus and this matter was too important to me, it was difficult for me to make the call to relief him. The new one was more structured but also much more expensive.
During a plead guilty (PG) session, I was presented with the facts of the prosecutor's charge. Strangely a legal assistant to the court kept asking me to re-look at the statements as there is no turning back once I PG. So I took a few moments to re-look at the statements and found some inconsistencies. At that time I still could not articulate clearly my feelings but requested some of these changes to be made. In their statement, they calculated the salaries paid by the JV- the developers that were named in the grant (which was of course lower as there were many more involved in the project). If this was their basis, would they not also include the salaries of all those that were involved in the project even though I did not go through the administrative task of updating the government on the number of staff working on the project.
In any case, another session was scheduled and I entered my psychiatric report on advise from my new counsel. Major depressive disorder had been suggested in the report that might have caused a bad judgement call during that time. The prosecutor wanted me assessed by the state psychiatrist and a new date was set up again for another pre-trial session.
So the day came when I was ready to be sentenced and a new judge had been appointed to look into my case. the judge looked at my mitigation factors and compared with the charges and had a talk with the two opposing lawyers. There was some surprise looks in court as this rarely happens and after a long moment the case was adjourned. Something in the charges did not sit so well with the judge and in addition if this drags out, a new one would be appointed so she wanted the two lawyers to go through a discussion again. My lawyers also found out the prosecution made an error in recommended custodial sentence. The sentence was eventually to run concurrently not consecutively. What a grave error!
Now, one would think my troubles are already at its height. One day I received a legal letter- this time from solicitors representing the government that gave me the grant. I suspect this is a new team as my past government contacts have left their roles due to a re-structuring exercise (so many years has lapsed). Based on the criminal case, they now want to pursue a civil case to claw back all the grant monies! It was another 'wtf' moment for me as this had been so long - almost 6 years! Something must be in play here and I suspect its coming from the prosecution side. It is too coincidental otherwise. In any case I am by now, extremely tired and took this new matter to my lawyers. They had been accommodating - capping my fees to a certain stage, whatever my income I could derive in the past years, most had been paid out for these legal expenses.
So now my civil suit is dependent on my criminal suit. And this is where I need your help. I wish to mount a defense on the cheating charges. So far the prosecution has refused to back down on the charges and it appears no one on their end is willing to look into the matter beyond the forgery and they simply established my motive to cheat was so I can pay off the JV settlement fees which was ridiculous considering I have been engaging the government on the grant application way before the civil suit. For the civil matter, I did in fact 'compensate' the JV company for 'work' done on the game project and delivered the game according to agreed milestones. Even if I had done all the paperwork and did not produce the products, the government would not have released the funds right? So there must be a value in the delivery of the product.
The only way to force them to look into the matter is to go on trial. But it is going to be expensive and I will need every help possible. To be convicted of a criminal crime there must not be any reasonable doubt. So I am convinced we can win this as there are far too many doubts in the case and how the prosecution have overlooked important events. If you have experienced this before or heard how the state can be very draconian and carry a 'could not care less' attitude, then help me send a message to them- that every case is important as it impacts not only the life of the accused but also their families. We appoint the government to protect us not to be sucked into an uncaring system which does no help to those that cannot afford the legal processes. If I cannot raise the money I will likely PG just so I can close this episode and move on with my life.