Friday Nov 19 2021
Web Desk

Afiniti CEO Zia Chishti steps down after harrowing sexual assault allegations

Web Desk
Afiniti CEO Zia Chishti (left) and Spottiswoode (right). Photo: File
Afiniti CEO Zia Chishti (left) and Spottiswoode (right). Photo: File

  • Zia Chishti steps down from roles of Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, and Director of Afiniti. 
  • Chisthi was accused of sexually abusing a former Afiniti employee during a trip to Brazil. 
  • Other Afinity employees corroborate claims of drug abuse, heavy drinking taking place during foreign business trips. 

Afiniti has sacked its founder Zia Chishti after allegations of sexual assault against him were made public by a former employee of the organisation. 

“The Board of Directors of Afiniti announces that Mr. Zia Chishti has stepped down from his role as Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, and Director of Afiniti, effective immediately,” the company said in a statement. “The Board will make additional organisational announcements in the coming days.”

Tatiana Spottiswoode, a 23-year-old former Afiniti employee, testified before a US congressional committee investigating arbitration clauses that companies write into contracts, and the effects they can have on victims of harassment and other crimes. 

Spottiswoode alleged that the 50-year-old Chishti had sexually assaulted her during a trip to Brazil. She said that after the assault, Chishti filed for arbitration to silence her from speaking about the ordeal. 

Spottiswoode, the daughter of an Afiniti co-founder, shared photographs as evidence of the assault. She said the sexual assault was so violent that a nurse who subsequently examined her at a hospital, stated that she had signs of a concussion. 

"My body was covered with scratches, cuts and contusions," Spottiswoode testified. "I had bruises around my neck that looked like I had been strangled, a large bump on my head, a black eye."

Five former employees of Afiniti, as per Bloomberg, said Spottiswoode's testimony was reflective of the organisation's culture where heavy drinking and drug use was common. 

Much of that took place at business trips to far-flung locales such as Duabi and Brazir where female employees "in their early 20s were encouraged to socialize with senior executives," alleged the former employees, who spoke on condition of anonymity. 

During her testimony, Spottiswoode also described a 2016 visit to Dubai where she alleged Chishti groped her in front of other colleagues and assaulted another. 

Two former employees of Afiniti confirmed to Bloomberg that Chishti reached a settlement with another young woman, who had been assaulted by Chishti, from discussing any details of the assault or compensation. 

Spottiswoode said the arbitrator ruled that she had been sexually harassed and assaulted by Chishti, but that his lawyers had sought to get her to vacate the award. She testified the founder had offered to give her an unspecified sum she had been awarded and drop a legal claim Chishti had made against her father and pay him $1 million.

Chishti, a successful entrepreneur, had assembled a high-profile roster of advisors that included three former heads of government, including ex-British prime minister David Cameron. 

His same panel of advisors also included a retired US admiral and A-list chief executives. The Pakistani-American had also hired a high-powered sales team that featured a member of the British Royal Family and a great-grandson of former British prime minister Winston Churchill. 

And he signed up blue-chip customers such as Caesars Entertainment and Enel SpA.