WASHINGTON: A former employee of a multinational data and software company has testified about being sexually assaulted by Pakistani-American businessman Zia Chishti on a work trip.
Former employee Tatiana Spottiswoode detailed allegations against chief executive Zia Chishti to members of US Congress in a hearing on Tuesday and also released pictures of injuries he allegedly caused.
Zia Chishti – the founder of software company Afiniti and TRG Global – allegedly beat 28-year-old Tatiana Spottiswoode after sexually assaulting her on a work trip to Brazil in 2017, leaving her with serious injuries.
The shocking allegations against the billionaire executive were levied during a Tuesday hearing by the House Judiciary Committee investigating how forced arbitration results in injustice. Tatiana Spottiswoode, a student at Columbia Law School, testified that she met Invisalign and Afiniti founder Zia Chishti when she was twelve or thirteen.
“When I was in my senior year of college, in December 2014, Chishti, who was 43 at the time, invited me on a ski trip. I was 21,” she noted. “I initially declined, but he insisted he wanted me to meet his nephew, who also studied philosophy. So I agreed. I later learned that the nephew, who never showed up, didn’t exist.”
“The trip was designed to groom me,” she testified. “Chishti told me he had feelings and showed me an extravagant lifestyle.” After he continued to pursue her, Spottiswoode said she eventually dated him about five times over ten weeks, but eventually broke off the relationship.
“Months later, Chishti encouraged me to join his company. He presented a rosy picture of a great career opportunity,” she explained. “I believed him. Chishti told me he did not expect a sexual relationship.”
When Spottiswoode joined his company in 2016, she signed a contract that included a forced arbitration agreement. She went on to describe a toxic work environment, including during a trip to South America.
“In Brazil, I avoided him as much as I could, but was under increasing pressure from him. I began to worry that, in addition to wanting sex, Chishti wanted to hurt me and punish me for rejecting him,” she explained. “I felt completely trapped and hopeless. I was 23 and very far from home.”
“I didn’t want to lose my job, I didn’t want him to get any angrier, I did not feel that anyone would protect me and I was too tired to argue with him anymore. I went to his room where he beat me,” she testified. “I told him he was hurting me, he said, ‘Good.’
“I hid in my hotel room until my flight the next day. My body was covered with scratches, cuts, and contusions. I had bruises around my neck that looked like I had been strangled, a large bump on my head, and a black eye,” she explained. “A nurse at the hospital said I had the symptoms of a concussion.”
She explained that she was worried about publicly telling her story. “Today, as I speak here, 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 and I no longer am,” Spottiswoode explained. “The person who changed my life forever continues to abuse me because forced arbitration gives him the power to do it in secret.”
Zia Chishti, who has strong ties to Pakistan, strongly disputes all accusations against him. The tech entrepreneur was born in the United States while the company operated a call center and a number of employees in the South Asian country. He also met Prime Minister Imran Khan when the latter visited the United States back in 2019.
Afiniti said that they 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 CEO and chair Zia Chishti strongly disputes all accusations against him.”
Former British prime minister David Cameron has resigned as an advisor to US software firm Afiniti after its multi-millionaire founder Zia Chisti was accused of sexual harassment and assault.
The former Conservative leader announced that he would immediately stand down from his post with the firm. A spokesman for Cameron said he had ‘absolutely no knowledge’ of the claims until the public testimony and stressed they allegedly took place before he began chairing the board in 2019.