Oxfam scandal boss resigned years earlier over sex allegations

The man at the centre of the Oxfam sex scandal had left an earlier charity job after it was claimed he was involved in sex parties with young women  in Liberia.

Roland van Hauwermeiren, 68, had been working in the West African country when a colleague became so alarmed by his behaviour that she reported him to her superiors.

Amira Malik Miller, a former aid worker, claims she alerted her bosses at the British medical emergency relief charity Merlin after serving with van Hauwermeiren there in 2004.

She said he agreed to resign after an investigation found senior managers had been using local sex workers.

He was recruited by Oxfam to work on a project some two years later in Chad.

Last month he became embroiled in claims he had sex with vulnerable young women while working for Oxfam in Haiti in 2011, the year after an earthquake devastated the country.

After learning of the scandal engulfing Oxfam in which van Hauwermeiren was named, Ms Miller, who now works as a Swedish civil servant, said she was astonished he had managed to get to work for another charity.

“Oh my God, he’s been doing this for 14 years,” she told IRIN, a website covering humanitarian news. “He just goes around the system… from Liberia to Chad, to Haiti to Bangladesh. Someone should have checked properly.”

She alerted both Merlin and the Swedish government’s aid department, which went on to give nearly £540,000 towards Oxfam’s Chad mission, which van Hauwermeiren ran.

She claimed a colleague warned her before going to Liberia that she could witness “dodgy things” happening, a reference she believed was about sexual behaviour.

She said that while working in his office she saw “unusual patterns” in his behaviour where he would be away from his team, or arrive with wet hair or return to work with clean clothes.

She said she found a housemate, who also worked for the charity, fondling a young Liberian woman. A source who worked for Merlin told IRIN that an investigation found four middle-aged charity managers were engaged in paying for sex in Liberia.

Another source said van Hauwermeiren and his management team had been “shameless” and acted as if their behaviour was “normal”.

It is understood that although van Hauwermeiren denied all the allegations against him, he agreed to resign. The source added that it was “staggering” van Hauwermeiren had managed to find employment again.

Van Hauwermeiren  worked as country director for Haiti in 2011 for Oxfam and was alleged to have used prostitutes at the charity’s rented villa. After an investigation he was allowed to quit. Two other staff resigned and four were sacked. Van Hauwermeiren went on to work in Bangladesh for Action Against Hunger.

He was last night unavailable for comment.

The charity Merlin became part of Save the Children in 2013. A Save the Children spokesman said they could not comment on van Hauwermeiren time with Merlin because it was before they merged. The Merlin chief executive at the time, Geoff Prescott, was last night unavailable for comment.

Ms Miller complained to IRIN that there was a “system failure” and “culture of complacency” that meant vulnerable women were not protected.

However, she added that her experience of “whistle-blowing” had not been negative and she was happy with the way the charity dealt with her complaint and punished those she claimed had done wrong.

Source: News Now Online  |The Telegraph

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About Cholo Brooks 7296 Articles
Joel Cholo Brooks is a Liberian journalist who previously worked for several international news outlets including the BBC African Service. He is the CEO of the Global News Network which publishes two local weeklies, The Star and The GNN-Liberia Newspapers. He is a member of the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL) since 1986, and several other international organizations of journalists.