Foreign Office pays £423,000 to whistleblower lawyer who lost job | Office of Foreign Affairs, Commonwealth and Development

A prosecutor fired from a job at the Foreign Office after voicing the bell over suspected corruption in the EU’s largest foreign mission has agreed a settlement with the British government worth more than £400,000.

Maria Bamieh, a lawyer, has argued for the past eight years that the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) has failed to provide support after trying to expose possible collusion between EU officials and suspected criminals in Kosovo.

Instead, she said, government officials told her to ignore apparent evidence of collusion at the EU’s rule of law mission, EULEX.

Her employment claim was due to go to an employment tribunal in May and June this year, but a settlement was reached shortly before the first hearing for just under £423,000, 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 commended for exposing evidence of corruption, but was instead mistreated and fired from her job.

“I believe I should have been commended and supported by the FCDO for voicing my concern about possible corruption within EULEX and the treatment I received afterwards, but instead I felt let down,” she said.

Commenting on the case, Foreign Affairs Committee chair Tom Tugendhat called on the State Department to review its complaints procedures.

“It takes a lot of moral guts and courage to stick your head above the parapet, knowing that there can be significant personal costs.

“The cover-up culture does not benefit anyone. If the State Department strengthened its grievance procedures and increased its openness, the ministry’s employees might not have to take such drastic measures,” he said.

Bamieh was working as an international prosecutor for EULEX in Kosovo when she first raised her concerns in mid-2012.

Eulex had cost more than €1 billion (£703 million) to set up by the EU, promising to chase the “big fish” among Kosovar politicians allegedly involved in organized crime.

Bamieh, a former Crown Prosecution Service and UN attorney who had dealt with war crimes and organized crime, told the tribunal that the FCDO’s failure to support and intervene led to the termination of her FCDO employment in late 2014.

Court documents claim she uncovered a conspiracy in 2012 to undermine her own corruption investigation into a Kosovar health official. Conversations recorded through court-authorized interceptions suggested that intermediaries for the official under investigation had spoken with a high-ranking EULEX judge about disrupting Bamieh’s investigations, court documents alleged.

Another leak appeared to show that a senior prosecutor had shared details of Bamieh’s investigations with a health ministry official’s contact, it was alleged.

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Bamieh, who was employed by the Foreign Office and seconded to EULEX, then expressed her concerns to a UK government official in June 2012.

According to her report, Bamieh organized a meeting with the then leader of the British contingent in Kosovo at a bistro bar in Pristina, the capital. The diplomat was provided with copies of relevant documents, including transcripts of wiretaps, which showed that the subjects of her study were themselves unlawfully informed, it was alleged.

Bamieh claimed the diplomat did not look at the evidence but advised her to “turn a blind eye”, although this was denied by the FCDO in its response to the claim.

Senior embassy officials were also approached by Bamieh about the allegations, the documents show.

The following year, Bamieh was subjected to disciplinary proceedings for parking violations and failure to follow work experience opportunities procedures.

The disciplinary action was striking compared to the way other EULEX employees had been treated in similar circumstances, Bamieh’s lawyers argued.

In 2014, it was announced that the FCDO would reduce the number of prosecutors in EULEX. Bamieh was subsequently given a notice period in November.

Mike Cain, partner at law firm Leigh Day, who represented Bamieh, said: “Protecting whistleblowers is critical to a fair and functioning democratic society. This is all the more true in spaces where public power is exercised, as it was when our client formed and reported her concerns, both in Kosovo and to senior figures within the FCDO.

Bamieh hopes to testify to the Foreign Affairs Committee about her treatment with another EULEX whistleblower, Malcolm Simmons.

A spokesman for the State Department said: “We have agreed to settle this long-running case without any admission of liability and continue to vigorously refute these allegations.”

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