Oxfam Haiti scandal: charity under pressure to hand over files of suspected abusers of children


The United Nations is infiltrated by “predatory paedophiles” preying on vulnerable children in the Third World, a whistleblower said today.

Andrew MacLeod, the former chief of operations of the UN’s Emergency Coordination Centre, told the Evening Standard that the worldwide abuse of children and vulnerable adults was on a huge scale.

His claims come as Oxfam came under pressure to hand over its own files of suspected abusers of children and vulnerable women in earthquake-stricken Haiti to the police.

The charity’s UK bosses were summoned to talks with International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt, who is threatening to cut off £32million government funding over the scandal.

Meanwhile the sheer scale of the abuse scandal was emerging, as a Charities Commission official revealed that 1,000 allegations of misconduct across the charity sector had been reported in the past year.

 International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt is threatening to cut off £32million government funding over the scandal (PA)

But the watchdog faced questions about why it did not investigate the situation at Oxfam more vigorously, allowing alleged abusers to be fired with no more questions asked.

With charities in the spotlight, it was the turn of the United Nations to face its own allegations.

Mr MacLeod said allegations of abuse involving peacekeeping soldiers alone was likely to run to around 50,000 or more over three decades. 

But he claimed to have also seen evidence that civilian abusers had taken jobs in development charities under the UN auspices to gain access to victims.

“What we have seen is that predatory paedophiles are now going to the developing world to get access to children,” he said. “To do that they join a children’s charity.”

Mr MacLeod said the UN had discussed the problem but taken no effective action. Some managers who tried to take action were removed from their posts.  

“In the Philippines an official I worked with said she would crack down on it but what happened was that she was accused of racism and removed,” he said.

“I know there were a lot of discussions at senior levels of the United Nations about ‘something must be done’ but nothing effective came of it, and if you look at the record of whistleblowers, they were fired.”

He added: “We are looking at a problem on the scale of the Catholic Church – if not bigger.”

Mr MacLeod confirmed he was the whistleblower whose evidence led former International Development Secretary Priti Patel to demand her department investigate the scandal of aid workers abusing people.

Conservative MP Conor Burns, who is Commons aide to Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, told the BBC’s Westminster Hour: “I believe that were are at the tip of an iceberg in finding out what has been going on, and that there has been systematic, organised and covered-up activity going on over many, many years.”

He said there was now “evidence that the United Nations were covering up officials within the UN engaging in paedophile activity whilst abroad on behalf of the United Nations”. 

Mr Burns said the evidence had been “shared… within the Foreign Office”.

The Charities Commission faced questions over why it failed to investigate the full extent of what happened at Oxfam.

Director of investigations Michelle Russell accused Oxfam of holding back details of the allegations, including that children and vulnerable people dependant on aid were allegedly exploited for sex.

“We’ve made very clear that had the details of what has come out over the last few days been told to us, we would have dealt with this very differently,” she told Today.

“We were categorically told there was no abuse of beneficiaries involved in the allegations. Nor were we told that there were issues or possible issues around possible crimes, including those involving minors.”

But the commission – which is the official watchdog of charities – admitted it failed to demand that Oxfam bosses hand over their own internal reports which would have revealed the true extent of the scandal.

Asked by the BBC why the commission did not insist on seeing Oxfam’s reports, Ms Russell said: “We were assured that Oxfam had investigated it fully.”

The United Nations did not respond to requests for a statement made by the Evening Standard in time for publication today.

Oxfam issued a statement yesterday apologising and saying it had introduced stricter rules and oversight. 

A spokesman said it would not say anything further until after the talks with Ms Mordaunt, attended by chief executive Mark Goldring and one other senior official.Oxfam has denied it tried to cover up the use of prostitutes by workers in Haiti in 2011.

Ms Mordaunt said yesterday: “I am affording them the opportunity to tell me in person what they did after these events and I’m going to be looking to see if they are displaying the moral leadership that I think they need to now.”

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