The chief executive officer (CEO) of Singaporean e-commerce startup Zilingo Ankiti Bose has been fired after alleged accounting irregularities were uncovered earlier this year by the company. Bose was suspended after alleged financial irregularities were spotted when the company tried raising more funds.
Bose has pushed back against the investigation by claiming that it was initiated because she reported facing harassment and abuse in the company.
“Following an investigation led by an independent forensics firm that was commissioned to look into complaints of serious financial irregularities, the Company has decided to terminate Ms Ankiti Bose’s employment with cause, and reserves the right to pursue appropriate legal action,” a Zilingo spokesperson told Entrackr in a statement. The statement did not elaborate on the results of the forensics firm’s audit.
“Any report that comes out post my termination, would be vitiated” — that is, legally invalid — “as it seems to be instructed by conflicted parties,” Bose said.
Bose said in a statement on Instagram that her termination cited her “insubordination”. She said in a similar statement shared by her legal team that she had not seen any reports by the firm doing the financial forensics, Kroll, or Deloitte (which had been hired to look into the harassment complaints), and had not been given enough time to produce documents requested by them.
“Ankiti’s lawyers have called her suspension a witch hunt and also has denied all the claims and allegations that have been made against her,” an April 29 press release apparently from someone in the Bose camp said. The PR firm that shared this release with Entrackr declined to identify the client on whose behalf it was sent.
“I will be speaking on record shortly with more details about the conflicts of interest in the manner this process was run and other matters which are being used to defame me including the timeline of events, harassment claims etc,” Bose added in her Instagram statement.
The back-and-forth between the founder and the board has played out in public, much to investors’ annoyance. A Twitter campaign played out earlier this week claiming to show leaked audio where a former member of the board is allegedly threatening Bose. Entrackr couldn’t determine the authenticity of the leaked audio, which largely anonymous accounts have been sharing online for the last few days.
Bose even offered to pay off a $40 million debt faced by the company amid the turmoil, the Financial Express reported on Tuesday.
Zilingo said in its statement that it hired an outside firm to look into the harassment complaints, and that Bose’s suspension was not retaliatory. “The Company is deeply pained and disappointed to see the manner in which the board, investors and employees have been constantly attacked through ostensibly leaked and fake information, along with what unfortunately appears to be paid and defamatory social media campaigns throughout the investigation period,” the Zilingo spokesperson said.
Zilingo acts as a conduit between e-commerce businesses and apparel suppliers; Walmart-backed Flipkart is one of its clients. Right before Bose’s suspension, the company was reportedly seeking investments that would have pushed its valuation to $1 billion.