A whistleblower who claimed she was not supported by the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) after she raised concerns about possible corruption within the organisation she had been seconded to has received a payout of nearly £423k.
Barrister Maria Bamieh claimed that the FCDO failed to provide any support when she raised concerns while working at the European Union Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) in Kosovo.
She argued that this lack of support ultimately led to her dismissal in 2014. The FCDO has denied any wrongdoing.
Her employment tribunal claim for unfair dismissal and detrimental treatment against the FCDO was due to be heard over 11 days in May and June, following a lengthy legal battle, but the FCDO has paid an out-of-court settlement of £422,900, with no admission of liability.
The FCDO said the payout included a tax liability that has been paid directly to HMRC, so the sum received by the claimant is lower.
Bamieh, an international prosecutor, first raised concerns about possible judicial corruption with senior managers at EULEX and FCDO in 2012.
The following year, she was subject to disciplinary proceedings by EULEX relating to work experience opportunities and car parking violations. She considered these violations to be minor and was concerned that she had been treated unfavourably in comparison with others. The work experience allegations were subsequently dropped, but she received a warning for the car parking issue.
Bamieh told the FCDO that she felt the disciplinary action had been connected with her whistleblowing and the fact that she had continually raised concerns that her corruption allegations had not been addressed.
The FCDO allegedly said it would not intervene in EULEX’s disciplinary processes and later enforced the car parking sanctions.
In 2013, Bamieh lodged a grievance through EULEX and copied in the FCDO. Later that year, EULEX began looking into her corruption allegations after another member of staff raised similar concerns.
In 2014 the FCDO said it needed to reduce the number of prosecutors in EULEX via a scoring exercise. This process was overseen by the same managers that Bamieh had made protected disclosures to.
Despite being one of the most experienced prosecutors, Bamieh scored among the lowest. She raised concerns about the fairness of the process and the FCDO instead made all prosecutors reapply for their jobs.
Her reselection interview was overseen by a panel of external interviewers who she claimed were closely connected to those whom she had accused of corruption. She was not reselected for her role.
During her notice period, Bamieh was accused of leaking information to the press after the Kosovan media reported on the 2012 corruption allegations. She denied she had been the source of the informatiom but was suspended from her role.
Later that month she decided to talk to the media herself after she felt her concerns had not been taken seriously.
I believe that I should have been commended 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 by them” – Maria Bamieh
In 2015 she lodged claims at the London Central Employment Tribunal against EULEX, FCDO and a range of individuals at EULEX. In 2016, the claims against all respondents other than FCDO, her contracted employer, were struck out and further appeals against this were heard by the Employment Appeal Tribunal and the Court of Appeal in 2018 and 2019.
Law firm leigh Day began acting for Bamieh in 2021, but the agreement was reached before the tribunal case against the FCDO was heard in May and June this year.
Bamieh said: “I believe that I should have been commended 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 by them. Without the bravery of whistleblowers, or a supportive culture to empower them, wrongdoing can go unchecked and hide in the shadows.
“I am pleased that after years of dispute I was able to bring a legal case against the FCDO, as my employer, and that the case has finally settled.”
Mike Cain, a partner at Leigh Day, said: “The protection of whistleblowers is crucial for a fair and functioning democratic society. It helps weed out corruption, prevent danger and stem illegality by ensuring that those that uncover information within their organisations are protected from retaliation. This is all the more the case in spaces where public power is being exercised as it was when our client formed and reported her concerns both in Kosovo and to senior figures within the FCDO. ”
A Foreign Office spokesperson said: “We have agreed to settle this long-running case without any admission of liability and continue to strongly refute these allegations.”