Afiniti founder Zia Chishti 'steps down' after sexual assault allegations

Published November 19, 2021
Former Afiniti chairman and CEO Zia Chishti. — Photo courtesy TRG website
Former Afiniti chairman and CEO Zia Chishti. — Photo courtesy TRG website

Software company Afiniti's founder Zia Chishti stepped down from his senior roles in the wake of sexual assault allegations against him, it emerged on Friday.

According to a statement posted on the company's website, the 50-year-old Pakistani-American stepped down as chairman, chief executive officer and director "effective immediately".

"The board will make additional organisational announcements in the coming days," the statement added.

A spokesperson for Afiniti was quoted by Sky News on November 17 as saying "we take any allegations of this nature extremely seriously" and that Chishti "strongly disputed all accusations against him".

The software company said it had "investigated Spottiswoode's claims with independent counsel and concluded that the arbitral decision she references was erroneous".

The news also affected the Pakistan Stock Market on Thursday as Chishti is also the CEO of TRG Pakistan Limited.

According to Topline Secu­rities, TRG Pakistan Ltd alone dragged the benchmark index down by 101.51 points as investors offloaded their shares in the technology company.

Harrowing allegations

The development comes after 23-year-old former employee Tatiana Spottiswoode on Tuesday testified before a US congressional committee investigating arbitration clauses that companies write into contracts and the chilling effect they can have on victims of harassment and other crimes, Bloomberg reported.

The report said that according to Spottiswoode — who is the daughter of an Afiniti co-founder — Chishti had sexually assaulted her during a business trip to Brazil and had filed for arbitration to silence her after she accused him.

She also provided photographs of the alleged assault as part of her testimony and described the encounter as "violent".

"My body was covered with scratches, cuts and contusion. I had bruises around my neck that looked like I had been strangled, a large bump on my head, a black eye," the report quoted her as saying.

She also talked about a visit to Dubai in 2016 where she alleged Chishti groped her in front of co-workers and assaulted a colleague.

David Cameron quits

After the allegations surfaced, former UK prime minister David Cameron on Wednesday also quit as chairman of the firm's advisory board.

According to Sky News, a spokesperson for Cameron said he had "absolutely no knowledge" of the claims until Spottiswoode's testimony and said they allegedly took place before he began chairing the board in 2019.

"Cameron understands that the allegations are disputed, but disagrees with the approach being taken by the company in responding to the matter," the report quoted the spokesperson as saying.

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