Wednesday 06 June 2012
City lawyer 'lost her £200,000 job after exposing corruption'
A lawyer was sacked from her £200,000 a year job with a City law firm after she blew the whistle on corruption in the firm’s African section, a tribunal heard.
Krista Bates van Winkelhof says she was fired shortly after revealing bribes were being paid to gain clients and ensure results in Tanzania.
Ms Van Winkelhof, whose experience includes handling deals worth up to 1.8 billion Euros, had also recently revealed to bosses that she was pregnant and claims that was another reason for her dismissal.
The Employment Appeals Tribunal heard that she was sacked from Ako Law in Tanzania the day after raising the alarm, then two months later was fired from Clyde & Co - the City based lawyers where she was an equity member and whose business in Tanzania was handled by Ako.
A hearing was told that Ms van Winkelhof, who had worked for well known firms including Linklaters, joined Shadbolts lawyers in 2005 and was seconded to Tanzania.
While there, Clyde & Co, a 'well known London law firm’, bought up some of Shadbolts’ Tanzanian interests, including Ako Law, where Ms van Winkelhof was working. Ako boasts among its staff several 'ex-London magic circle lawyers.
Ms van Winkelhof, who was educated at UCL and who has joint UK and US citizenship, was rated the number one lawyer in Tanzania by PLC Which Lawyer? and was also praised for “bringing a new energy and experience to the Tanzanian market”.
In December 2009 she accepted a contract from Clydes making her an equity member and offering her future promotion. Her package, which included a fixed profit share of £103,000 a year, $85,000 a year from Ako law as well as another profit share, was worth around £200,000 a year.
But the following year she had become alarmed at the behaviour of Ako Law’s managing partner, Kibuta Ongwamuhana, and worried he was paying bribes, the tribunal heard.
Judge Peter Clerk, presiding over the hearing in London, said: “On November 23 and 24 2010 she reported to Clyde’s money laundering officers that Kibuta had admitted to her that he paid bribes to secure work and to secure the outcome of cases.
“This allegation is denied by Clyde and forms the basis of the claimant’s whistleblowing complaint.”
She was sacked by Ako Law on November 25 and returned to London the following month to discuss allegations made against her with bosses at Clyde
In January she was sacked from Clyde. She now works for Anjarwalla and Khanna in Nairobi.
Judge Clerk said: “It is her case that her expulsion was a detriment on the grounds that she had made protected disclosures in respect of Kibuta, and / or amounted to unlawful sex discrimination on the grounds that a male partner would not have been treated in that way or it was pregnancy related.
“She had recently informed Clyde that she was pregnant.”
Clyde denies her allegations and also argued that the London tribunal did not have jurisdiction over the matter.
The allegations were to do with the African firm, they said.
But Judge Clerk rejected this claim and said the case could proceed.
He said: “The case will now return to the Employment Tribunal for substantive hearing of all claims.”
The full hearing is due to take place later this month.