A prosecutor sacked at the Foreign Office after exposing suspicions of corruption at the EU’s biggest foreign mission has agreed a settlement with the UK government of more than £400,000.
Maria Bamieh, a lawyer, has claimed for the past eight years that the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) failed to provide support after trying to expose possible collusion between government officials. EU and suspected criminals in Kosovo.
Instead, she said, she was told by government officials to ignore apparent evidence of collusion within the EU’s rule of law mission, called EULEX.
His employment claim was due to be heard in an employment tribunal in May and June this year, but a settlement of just under £423,000 was agreed shortly before the first hearing with no admission of liability. The FCDO said it continued to strongly deny Bamieh’s claims.
Speaking for the first time since the settlement, Bamieh told the Guardian she should have been praised for exposing evidence of corruption but was instead abused and forced out of her job.
“I think I should have been congratulated and supported by the FCDO for raising my concerns about possible corruption within EULEX and the treatment I suffered afterwards, but instead I felt abandoned,” she said.
Commenting on the case, Foreign Affairs Select Committee Chairman Tom Tugendhat called on the Foreign Office to review its complaints procedures.
“It takes great moral fiber and courage to lift your head above the parapet, knowing that there may be significant personal cost.
“The culture of concealment benefits no one. Perhaps if the Department of Foreign Affairs strengthened its complaints processes and increased its transparency, department staff members would not have to resort to such drastic measures,” he said.
Bamieh was working in Kosovo as an international prosecutor for EULEX when she first raised her concerns in mid-2012.
Eulex had cost more than €1bn (£703m) to set up by the EU, with promises to pursue ‘big fish’ among Kosovar politicians suspected of involvement in organized crime .
Bamieh, a former crown prosecutor and UN lawyer who had dealt with war crimes and organized crime, told the court that the FCDO’s failure to support and intervene led to the termination of his job at the FCDO at the end of 2014.
Court documents claim that in 2012 she uncovered a plot to undermine her own investigations into the corruption of a Kosovar health official. Conversations recorded through court-authorized intercepts suggest that intermediaries of the official under investigation had discussed disrupting Bamieh’s investigations with a senior EULEX judge, according to court documents.
Another leak appeared to show that a senior prosecutor had shared details of Bamieh’s investigations with a contact of the health ministry official, it was claimed.
Bamieh, who was employed by the Foreign Office and seconded to EULEX, later raised her concerns with a UK government official in June 2012.
According to his account, Bamieh arranged a meeting with the head of the then British contingent in Kosovo at a bistro in Pristina, the capital. The diplomat received copies of relevant documents, including transcripts of wiretaps, which showed that the subjects of her investigations were themselves improperly informed, it was claimed.
Bamieh alleged that the diplomat failed to review the evidence, instead advising him to “turn a blind eye”, although this was denied by the FCDO in its response to the allegation.
Senior embassy officials were also contacted by Bamieh about the allegations, according to the documents.
The following year, Bamieh faced disciplinary proceedings for a parking violation and failure to follow procedures for work experience opportunities.
The disciplinary action was egregious compared to how other EULEX staff had been treated in similar circumstances, Bamieh’s lawyers claimed.
In 2014, it was announced that the FCDO would reduce the number of its prosecutors within EULEX. Bamieh then received a layoff notice in November.
Mike Cain, a partner at the law firm Leigh Day, which represented Bamieh, said: “Whistleblower protection is crucial to a just and functioning democratic society. This is all the more the case in spaces where public power is exercised, as was the case when our client was trained and expressed her concerns both in Kosovo and to senior FCDO officials.
Bamieh hopes to testify before the Foreign Affairs Select Committee about his treatment with another EULEX whistleblower, Malcolm Simmons.
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We have agreed to settle this long-standing matter without any admission of liability and continue to strongly refute these allegations.”