Multimillionaire founder of scandal-hit Afiniti QUITS over sex assault claims: Chief executive of US tech firm that employs Princess Beatrice steps down days after female member of staff accused him of attacking her
- Zia Chisti, 50, accused of beating a female employee during a sexual encounter
- Beatrice is now facing calls to follow David Cameron and leave the company
- Prince Andrew’s eldest daughter is vice president of strategy and partnerships
The multimillionaire founder of a software company that employs Princess Beatrice stepped down last night after a female member of staff accused him of attacking her in harrowing testimony to the US Congress.
Beatrice is now facing calls to follow David Cameron – who has quit as an adviser to the firm – and resign from her role as vice president of strategy and partnerships after the allegations emerged.
Prince Andrew’s eldest daughter, 33, is vice president of strategy and partnerships at Afiniti, where boss Zia Chisti, 50, has been accused of pressuring a female employee into sex, and allegedly beating her during a sexual encounter.
Former employee Tatiana Spottiswoode, 28, has claimed that Mr Chishti effectively groomed her when she was 21 and then pressured her into sex and assaulted her, leaving her with cuts and bruises and symptoms of concussion.
She gave evidence about the alleged attack to the US Congress and submitted photographs of her injuries.
Zia Chishti allegedly harassed, threatened and sexually assaulted female staff member Tatiana Spottiswoode, 28
Princess Beatrice, 33, is vice president of strategy and partnerships at Afiniti and now under pressure to quit
In a statement last night an Afiniti spokesman said: ‘The Board of Directors of Afiniti, Ltd. (“Afiniti”) announces that Mr. Zia Chishti has stepped down from his role as Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, and Director of Afiniti, effective immediately. The Board will make additional organizational announcements in the coming days.’
Earlier an Afiniti spokesman said Mr Chishti ‘strongly disputes all accusations against him’.
David Cameron announced he would leave his role with the firm immediately after learning of the accusations against Mr Chishti, despite the entrepreneur’s denial of the allegations.
Mr Cameron joined the company’s advisory board in 2019, two years after the alleged assault against Miss Spottiswoode and his spokesman said he had ‘absolutely no knowledge’ of the allegations until her evidence to the US Congress committee on Tuesday.
Several major businesses have also said they will review their involvement with the firm.
Afiniti, which provides artificial intelligence technology for call centres, was founded by multimillionaire entrepreneur Mr Chishti in 2005 and has its headquarters in Bermuda, a tax haven.
Ms Spottiswoode said she met Mr Chishti – who was listed among the top 50 bachelors in America by People Magazine in 2001 – when she was 12 or 13, and met him again when she was a student at Columbia Law School.
She told the committee: ‘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.
‘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. Chishti told me he had feelings and showed me an extravagant lifestyle.’
Ms Spottiswoode went on to describe a toxic work environment, saying he ‘ocellated between pressurising me for sex and punishing me’
Ms Spottiswoode provided photos showing bruises Mr Chishti had left on her neck
Ms Spottiswoode said she rejected him, but eventually dated him about five times over ten weeks before eventually breaking off the relationship.
She continued: ‘Months later, Chishti encouraged me to join his company. He presented a rosy picture of a great career opportunity. I believed him. Chishti told me he did not expect a sexual relationship.’
When Ms Spottiswoode joined his company in 2016, she said she signed a contract that included an arbitration agreement with a ‘strong confidentiality clause’.
She went on to describe a toxic work environment, saying he ‘ocellated between pressurising me for sex and punishing me’.
‘During a work meeting in Dubai, he put his hands under my pants and grabbed my but in front of co-workers,’ she said.
Ms Spottiswoode went on to describe another work trip to Brazil.
David Cameron, 55, joined Afiniti as the chairman of its advisory board in 2019, two years after the incident is alleged to have taken place. He has now quit the firm
‘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 said.
‘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 while having sex with me.
‘I told him he was hurting me, he said, ”Good”. He told me he should’ve had sex with me when we first met, when I was 13-years-old.
‘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. A nurse at the hospital said I had the symptoms of a concussion.’
Lawyer Harriet Wistrich, the founder of the Centre for Women’s Justice, had said Mr Chishti should ‘consider his position’ and that executives such as Princess Beatrice should do the same.
Former England rugby star Will Greenwood, Prince Harry’s friend Thomas Inskip and Winston Churchill’s great-grandson Archie Soames are also employed by the company and board members include former Spanish prime minister José María Aznar and Australian banker Rob Rankin.
Princess Beatrice splits her time between Britain and the US in her role for the firm, and has represented the company at major events such as the annual meeting of world leaders in Davos.
She is currently on maternity leave but has previously described the business as being ‘on the cutting edge of artificial intelligence’ and praised it for ‘working to build a little bit more of a community’ in the technology industry.
Her father Prince Andrew is currently facing a civil lawsuit over separate sexual abuse allegations in the US, related to his friendship to shamed financier Jeffrey Epstein. He denies any wrongdoing.
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