‘I feel like my baby has been taken from me’: Fired Zilingo CEO vows to fight to clear her name

Ankiti Bose, the founder of Singapore-based startup Zilingo, has spoken out after being ousted from her company last week.

The e-commerce platform fired Bose last week amid an investigation, which is still underway, into serious financial irregularities at the company. It said in a statement yesterday it had “decided to terminate Ms. Ankiti Bose’s employment with cause and reserves the right to pursue appropriate legal action.”

During the probe, the independent investigator, Kroll, found Bose had signed off on around $7 million worth of payments to several service providers without the knowledge of other senior executives, Bloomberg reported.

Bose has maintained her innocence, saying the company fired her for not cooperating with the investigation rather than for any financial improprieties, and calling it a “witch hunt.”

“There is not a single payment made by Zilingo that did not have proper documents or either the finance, tech, or operations teams were not aware of,” Bose said to Bloomberg.

“I feel like my baby has been taken away from me without giving me a proper explanation or a chance to fight for her back. I’m grieving and fighting for myself simultaneously,” she said.

The investigation

Zilingo was cofounded by Bose and Dhruv Kapoor in 2015 as a site for small street merchants to grow an online presence, but it expanded rapidly into an international business-to-business platform working across the supply chain. By 2019, the company was working in eight different countries and had raised $226 million in Series D funding at a valuation of $970 million.

But the mammoth complexity of Zilingo trying to connect thousands of vendors with merchants all across Southeast Asia ended up straining the company’s ability to track its financials. Reports indicate Zilingo had stopped filing annual financial statements in 2019, spanning thousands of transactions and revenues made on the platform over three years.

Bose was suspended from her role as chief executive on March 31, as the company opened up its investigations into accounting irregularities.

Last week, she provided an update on Instagram and Twitter: “I have been suspended for the last 51 days on the basis of an anonymous whistleblower complaint, and today I am informed that my employment has been terminated inter alia on grounds of ‘insubordination.’”

She has since defended her payments, saying they were all made legitimately and did not benefit her personally. She added that it’s possible senior managers weren’t made aware of the payments, but that doesn’t mean there was anything nefarious about them.

But the investigation has already fueled fears that the revenue and financial figures Zilingo provided to investors at the time of the equity raise could have been inflated. Creditors of Zilingo are now recalling their loans to the company, prompting its board to appoint an independent financial adviser for options.

Zilingo did not respond to Fortune’s request for comment.

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