A leading U.K charity denied Friday it took part in a cover up after senior aid workers paid young Haitian girls for sex in the wake of the devastating Jan. 2010 earthquake.
An investigation by the Times revealed three senior aid workers for Oxfam were “permitted” to resign and four others were fired for gross misconduct in relation to sexual exploitation, downloading of pornography, bullying and intimidation on the Caribbean island in the months after the tragedy.
Oxfam conducted an internal investigation in 2011, but never revealed details of the subsequent firings and resignations.
It is alleged by the report that some of the prostitutes were underage. Sources familiar with the case told the Times that aid workers had invited “groups of young prostitutes” to their guesthouse and held sex parties.
One source described seeing video footage from a party that was “like a full-on Caligula orgy,” with girls wearing Oxfam T-shirts.
The charity told VICE News Friday that the allegations about underage sex were never proven.
Despite the findings of the investigation, and the fact prostitution is illegal in Haiti, Oxfam did not inform local authorities because, after taking legal advice, the charity felt it was “extremely unlikely that reporting these incidents to the police would lead to any action being taken,” an Oxfam spokesperson said.
The aid workers were part of a huge international relief effort following the earthquake in Port-au-Prince, which killed 220,000 people and left more than 1.5 million destitute.
Following Oxfam’s investigation, the charity’s country director in Haiti, Roland van Hauwermeiren, admitted bringing prostitutes to the villa rented for him using some of the $415 million the charity receives from the U.K. government and donations each year.
Controversially, Oxfam agreed to give Van Hauwermeiren and two other senior officials “a phased and dignified exit,” because firing them would have had “potentially serious implications” for the charity.
The company said Van Hauwermeiren was “permitted to resign on the basis that he fully cooperated with and supported the investigation.”
In an emailed statement, Oxfam told VICE News that it “treats any allegations of misconduct extremely seriously. As soon as we became aware of the allegations in Haiti in 2011 we launched an internal investigation.”
A spokesperson for the charity previously denied they tried to obscure the facts. “This was not a cover-up,” a spokesperson told the Telegraph.
Oxfam said it informed the Charity Commission about the probe, but the commission said it never received the final report and at no time was it given “any indication of potential sexual crimes involving minors.”
Cover image: (Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Life After the Earthquake - City workers remove steel from a collaped school. (Tony Savino/Corbis via Getty Images)