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Singapore startup Zilingo fires CEO after suspension

05/20/2022 | 05:19am EDT

(Adds investors declined to comment in paragraph 10)

SINGAPORE, May 20 (Reuters) - Singapore-based Zilingo said on Friday it had fired Chief Executive Ankiti Bose after an independent investigation into complaints about what the fashion technology startup described as "serious financial irregularities."

Bose, 30, the face of Zilingo at industry forums and investor meetings, told Reuters she was wrongfully dismissed.

"The board has wrongfully terminated me today for 'insubordination' without giving me a chance to address fully the concerns that have been raised," she said in an email statement.

Seven-year-old Zilingo was plunged into crisis after its board suspended Bose, the company's co-founder, in March with the backing of major investors, pending the probe.

Valued at nearly $1 billion in its last funding round in 2019, Zilingo is backed by investors including Sequoia Capital India and Singapore state investor Temasek.

The company said in an email statement it had decided to terminate Bose's "employment with cause, and reserves the right to pursue appropriate legal action."

Zilingo did not give details about the probe but said an independent forensics firm led the investigation.

It said a top consulting firm was also appointed to look into claims of harassment that Bose brought to the board's notice after her suspension.

Zilingo said the investigation concluded the company took appropriate action and followed due process to address these complaints. It said recent online reports had "caused irreparable damage" to the company, the board, employees and investors.

The startup's investors, Temasek and Sequoia, declined to comment.

Zilingo said last week that its debtholders had decided to recall their entire loan, leading the company to appoint a financial adviser to assess options.

Founded in 2015 by Bose and Chief Technology Officer Dhruv Kapoor, Zilingo has become a global supply chain enabler for the apparel industry. It works with thousands of apparel factories and merchants in South Asia and Southeast Asia, connecting them to retailers worldwide.

Bose said in her statement to Reuters that she had informed the board this week in detail about "the amount of harassment and duress" she had undergone in the past few years.

"At the point of my purported termination, I have yet to be presented with the findings of both Kroll and Deloitte and my reports being incomplete," she wrote.

Sources familiar with the situation said Kroll conducted the probe into the claims of "financial irregularities" and Deloitte was tapped to probe Bose's "harassment" claims.

Kroll declined to comment. Deloitte did not immediately respond to email and phone requests for comment.

Zilingo did not immediately respond to requests for further comment on the case. (Reporting by Anshuman Daga in Singapore and Jaiveer Singh Shekhawat, Shubham Kalia in Bengaluru; Editing by Edmund Blair)

© Reuters 2022
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