Just weeks after suspending its CEO and co-founder Ankiti Bose over allegations of financial irregularities, the Singapore-based Zilingo’s board has now placed Naushaba Salahuddin, the head of communications and PR under suspension, according to two sources close to the development. Salahuddin also heads Zilingo’s prevention of sexual harassment committee and joined the B2B firm in November 2018.
Salahuddin’s access to emails and various other work tools was suspended last weekend when she questioned the board over a company-wide e-mail questioning an earlier statement issued by Zilingo to the media, one of the sources asking to remain anonymous said.
According to the copy of the email seen by FE, Salahuddin has accused the Zilingo board of issuing “false and half-truth” statements to the press regarding Bose’s sexual harassment complaints that were allegedly brought to notice with the HR team last year. The email was marked to all the board members and various other women employees at Zilingo.
“The board suspended my email access yesterday because I questioned the board regarding a media statement made by a Zilingo representative on behalf of the board, which is known to be false and I further questioned who made it? The media statement maligns the company and its founder and senior officials while stating something that many employees of Zilingo know to be a lie,” Salahuddin mentioned in the email.
Earlier media reports said Bose had submitted multiple complaints against colleagues, but the management allegedly did not act on these complaints adequately. “The threats were sexually explicit in nature which she submitted with the board as well,” one of the sources mentioned earlier said.
Responding to these allegations, the Zilingo board said that several days after her suspension on March 31, Bose brought to the board’s attention, for the first time, certain harassment-related issues pertaining to past time periods. “For the sake of clarity, no harassment complaints are made against investors or their nominees. The board is committed to following due process to look into all related events from the past which have now been brought to their attention.”
The Zilingo spokesperson added that the major investors of the company authorised the board to put Bose on suspension pending an investigation of the matters raised.
Addressing the above statement in her email, Salahuddin alleged that the formal board statement issued to the press “is factually incorrect” and that it was given to the media by an external agency, without any consultation or knowledge of the Zilingo communications team.
“The statement made to the press, by the Zilingo board representative to the knowledge of many employees is false – that it stated that no board member knew about any harassment before 31st March and that statement makes us all look like liars,” Salahuddin added in her email to the board and women employees at Zilingo.
Reacting to this, on May 2, the Zilingo board issued a fresh statement saying that “contrary to claims that have been circulating in the media”, the decision to suspend Ankiti was taken jointly by the board and the relevant shareholders pursuant to pre-agreed shareholders’ voting rights which does not reflect the decision of a single shareholder.
“To clarify, no past or present investor nominees on the board were made aware of the harassment claims, until after she (Ankiti Bose) was suspended. Furthermore, these complaints do not allege harassment by any investors or past/current board members…For the avoidance of doubt, no guilt on anyone’s part has yet been determined, as the investigations are still ongoing,” the statement added.
Thirty-year-old Ankiti Bose, who has been at the helm of the company since 2015, is currently embroiled in a legal tussle with the board after the latter accused the CEO and co-founder of inflating revenues.