Oxfam admits staff engaged in sexual misconduct during Haiti quake relief effort

UN peacekeepers were withdrawn last year after reports of a child sex ring

The move follows growing pressure on the charity after an investigation by The Times found young sex workers were hired by senior staff in Haiti after the 2010 natural disaster which devastated the island and left up to 300,000 people dead.

The scandal has cast a negative light over Oxfam's work in Haiti.

An investigation by The Times UK revealed that Oxfam, which receives £300 million ($414 million US dollars) in British government funds and charitable donations, let three staffers resign and fired four others for gross misconduct after an inquiry into the damning claims.

Groups of young prostitutes were invited to homes and guesthouses paid for by the charity for sex parties, according to one source who claimed to have seen footage of an orgy with sex workers wearing Oxfam t-shirts. The aid workers were there to provide relief after the 2010 Haiti quake.

In its statement Friday, Oxfam said that it had informed its trustees, the United Kingdom government's Charity Commission and worldwide development agency, as well as other major donors such as the European Union, the World Health Organization and other United Nations agencies of the investigation and the outcome.

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"We acknowledge that hundreds of Oxfam staff have done no wrong and work tirelessly for the people they serve, but the handling by the senior team about this investigation and their openness with us and the charity commission showed a lack of judgement".

A Charity Commission spokesman said: 'In August 2011, Oxfam made a report to the Commission about an ongoing internal investigation into allegations of misconduct by staff members involved in their Haiti programme.

"The misconduct findings related to offenses including bullying, harassment, intimidation and failure to protect staff as well as sexual misconduct", Oxfam said in its statement Friday.

The report did not detail the precise allegations, nor did it make any indication of potential sexual crimes involving minors.

As part of that, we have already asked the charity to review historic safeguarding allegations and its response to them at the time. We will expect the charity to provide us with assurance that it has learnt lessons from past incidents and is taking all necessary steps to safeguard all who come into with it'.

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The charity said in a statement: "Oxfam treats any allegation of misconduct extremely seriously".

It also condemned the behaviour of some former staff after the Times newspaper claimed aid workers were paying for sex while working on a relief mission. An unidentified source familiar with the investigation alleged that Oxfam bosses thought it "unnecessary to pursue some of the allegations if we could get enough to simply dismiss the individuals".

Oxfam insisted allegations that underage girls may have been involved were not proven.

"We have a zero tolerance policy for the type of activity that took place in this instance, and we expect our partners to as well".

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