International Desk November 17, 2021 : TRG hit lower circuit as market opens for trading today on allegation of sexual assault against the Chief Executive Officer of TRG.
The multi-millionaire founder of a software company advised by David Cameron has been accused of a pattern of physical abuse and sexual harassment against a female employee.
Zia Chishti, 50, allegedly beat a 23-year-old employee while having sex with her on a work trip to Brazil in 2017, leaving her with injuries, and told her that “he should have had sex with me when I was thirteen years old”. Mr Chishti had been a friend and business associate of her father’s, she told the US House Judiciary Committee in written testimony.
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Mr Cameron, 55, did not comment in his role as chairman of Afiniti’s advisory board, which he joined in 2019, after the alleged events took place. The claims threaten to create a new controversy for the former prime minister following the collapse of finance company Greensill.
Afiniti, which provides artificial intelligence software for managing call centres, also employs Princess Beatrice as its vice-president of strategy and partnerships.
Mr Chishti strongly denies the allegations against him.
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In testimony published by the US Congress, Tatiana Spottiswoode, who was hired by Mr Chishti in 2016, accused him of sexual assault against her and another former employee before the company paid settlements to both women.
She said she had been “groomed” as a 21-year-old on a ski trip when Mr Chishti was 43, and when hired by Afiniti in 2016, was repeatedly pressured into sex with him.
“Chishti was not willing to treat me like an employee. Instead, over the next 18 months, he oscillated between pressuring me for sex and punishing me. When I rebuffed him, he humiliated me in front of co-workers and then ignored me completely, causing me to fear for my job,” she said.
Ms Spottiswoode said that Mr Chishti had sent her “pornographic emails describing his rape fantasy, including strangling me while having sex”. She said one encounter with him had left her with “bruises around my neck, a large bump on my head, a black eye” and that a nurse had told her she had symptoms of a concussion.
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Ms Spottiswoode said that she had attempted to rebuff Mr Chishti, telling him: “These experiences were frightening, degrading and embarrassing for me … I do not trust you when you are drunk and these experiences make me feel scared and apprehensive”.
On a separate work trip, she said Mr Chishti had “put his hand inside my pants and grabbed my butt in front of co-workers. No one took any action on my behalf.”
Ms Spottiswoode said she and a second 20-something female employee, who also met Mr Chishti through her father, had received settlements from the company, which “did nothing to protect other Afiniti women”.
Afiniti, headquartered in Bermuda, uses artificial intelligence to make call centres more efficient by matching callers with “compatible” customer service agents with a process known as “behavioural pairing”.
Its high-profile advisory board includes Julie Bishop, the former Australian foreign minister, and Andrew Knight, the chairman of Times Newspapers, the owner of The Times and Sunday Times.
As the advisory board’s chairman, the former prime minister is “responsible for curating and overseeing strategic guidance” to Afiniti’s executives and board of directors. When hired, Mr Chishti praised Mr Cameron for having a “deep personal commitment” to making companies more productive.
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Mr Cameron did not comment. A source close to the former prime minister said he did not know about the allegations until they were aired in Congress.
Mr Chishti, a Pakistani-American former investment banker, founded the teeth-straightening device Invisalign before founding Afiniti, where he is the company’s chief executive. The company secured a reported $1.6bn (£1.2bn) valuation in 2018 and has at times been a purported candidate for a multibillion-dollar stock market listing.
Mr Cameron’s post-political career was tarnished earlier this year by Greensill Capital, which he advised until its collapse in March. In July, a parliamentary committee criticised him for a “lack of judgement” over his text message lobbying of ministers on behalf of the firm.
Ms Spottiswoode said Mr Chishti had used a legal process known as arbitration, in which disputes are required to go through a mediator, in order to guarantee her silence.
She said the day before she was due to give evidence to the arbitration process, Mr Chishti had sued her father “to punish and scare me”. When the arbitrator ruled that she had been sexually harassed and assaulted, she said Mr Chishti’s lawyers had offered to drop the lawsuit and pay her father $1m.
“They sued my father … probably so Afiniti and Chishti could hide it from his future victims and from potential shareholders if the company goes public,” she said.
“I am afraid of the consequences for my family that will arise from my speaking out. I have PTSD. I have nightmares. I used to be a very social person - I no longer am.”
A spokesman for Afiniti said: “We take any allegations of this nature extremely seriously. Afiniti has investigated Ms. Spottiswoode’s claims with independent counsel and concluded that the arbitral decision she references was erroneous.
“Afiniti’s chief executive and chairman Zia Chishti strongly disputes all accusations against him.”