A Swiss entrepreneur has been jailed for two years and 8 months after being found guilty of conning two stars of the BBC TV Show Dragons’ Den out of £230,000 that should have been invested in a ‘Satski’ satellite navigation device for skiers.
Jean-Claude Baumgartner’s pitch to the assembled investors on the March 2010 episode was a slick one. Showing the Dragons a small GPS unit, he claimed it the £300 device would be indispensible for any serious ski visitor to 228 resorts worldwide, with revenues emerging from software sales for add-ons and advertising.
“It allows you in real time to position exactly where you are on the piste,” Baumgartner explained before talking up other features such as the ability to track friends and call the emergency services.
With entry-to-market sales of £100,000 and a projected profit of £1.3 million once investment had been found, Dragons angels Peter Jones and Theo Paphitis agreed to invest £130,000 for a 49 percent share of the business after an extended bidding war with other members of the panel.
What Baumgartner failed to mention was that his previous firm selling a similar product had collapsed with large debts, omitting that he didn’t own the rights to the software used by the Satski at the time of the TV programme.
Having spent some of the investment on failed attempts to drum up business, Baumgartner allegedly covered up his failures with fake letters and emails. These persuaded the Dragons to invest a further £100,000 in the business, some of which was used to fund his lifestyle.
Having being royally misled, Jones and Paphitis were at least spared the embarrassment at having to appear as witnesses after Baumgartner’s admission of one count of fraud before the trial began.
"This was a particularly brazen and audacious fraud, carried out on national television. When the Dragons asked for repayment, it became clear he had begun to live the life of a successful businessman before the business was a success," said Crown Prosecution Service Advocate, Mark James-Dawson.
"You could have enjoyed a privileged existence without resorting to dishonesty," said Judge Aidan Marron QC.