By Rajeev Syal
Maria Bamieh alleges FCO would not examine claims of collusion between Eulex officials and suspected criminals in Kosovo
Foreign Office (FCO) diplomats wanted a whistleblower to “turn a blind eye” to evidence of corruption at the European Union’s biggest foreign mission, according to documents placed before a tribunal on Monday.
Maria Bamieh, a London-based lawyer, said FCO officials declined to take any steps to corroborate her claims of collusion between EU officials and suspected criminals in Kosovo. Instead, she claims that UK officials told her to ignore evidence of illicit payments.
The allegations made against the Foreign Office have become clear in documents lodged with a tribunal in central London. Bamieh’s allegations against Eulex, the EU’s mission in Pristina, surfaced in the Guardian in 2014.
Bamieh claims she was forced from her job as a prosecutor for Eulex after claiming to have found evidence senior staff had taken bribes and were colluding with murderers.
Eulex has cost more than €1bn (£703m) since it was established with a promise of pursuing the “big fish” among Kosovo politicians who were alleged to be involved in organised crime.
Bamieh’s claims, along with the appearance of compromising documents in the Kosovan media, have reinforced the impression within the former Yugoslav province that Eulex may have become part of the problem it is trying to solve.
Documents allege that Bamieh, who was employed by the Foreign Office and seconded to Eulex, first raised her concerns with a UK government official in June 2012.
Bamieh set up a meeting with the then UK contingent leader in Kosovo in a bistro bar in Pristina, the capital city.
She claimed to have provided the diplomat, who was named in the tribunal, with copies of relevant documents including transcripts of wiretaps, which showed that subjects of her investigations were themselves being illicitly briefed about her investigation.
She alleged that he did not look at the evidence, instead advising her to “turn a blind eye”.
Tribunal papers claimed that over the next two years, other Foreign Office officials repeatedly dismissed her claims of collusion.
“This was the approach that the FCO would take subsequently, and was an explicit breach of the FCO whistleblowing policy, a contractual term of Ms Bamieh’s employment,” the documents allege.
She also shared her concerns at around the same time with Ian Cliff, the UK ambassador to Kosovo, the documents claim.
In August 2014, Bamieh set up a meeting with Cliff and outlined her grievances, the documents claim.
She alleged she was being marginalised as a result of having raised protected disclosures that detailed corruption; that her line manager in Eulex was being allowed to engineer a recruitment process that would result in her dismissal; and that she had sought and not been provided with assistance from the FCO, documents said.
Bamieh’s legal team are appealing against a judgment that decided last year cases against Eulex cannot be heard in the UK.
Bamieh’s solicitor, Peter Daly of the human rights specialists Bindmans, said: “Maria Bamieh’s case is one which poses significantly disturbing questions for the institutions of the EU and for the UK government.
“It is in our view unacceptable that respondents including the Foreign Office and Eulex with effectively limitless resources should seek to – or should even desire to – deny whistleblowers access to a fair trial.”
A Foreign Office spokesperson said: “We strongly refute these allegations. It is totally untrue that a UK diplomat gave the advice that is being alleged by Ms Bamieh. We take these matters very seriously, but it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time due to ongoing litigation.”