Malta-based EU asylum agency accused of nepotism and irregularities

Anonymous employees file complaint with OLAF alleging nepotism and mishandling of harassment claims in complaint

Targeted in the complaint were the EUAA’s Mark Camilleri (left) and executive director Nina Gregori
Targeted in the complaint were the EUAA’s Mark Camilleri (left) and executive director Nina Gregori

An anonymous complaint to the EU’s anti-fraud agency has alleged misconduct by the head of the Malta-based EU asylum agency, just three years after she was tasked with restoring the body’s credibility following her predecessor’s abrupt resignation.

According to the complaint, seen by the Financial Times, and sent to OLAF and the European Commission, employees of the European Union Agency for Asylum alleged cases of nepotism, misleading reports and mishandling of harassment claims by executive director Nina Gregori.

Gregori, a Slovenian, took charge in 2019 after the departure of José Carreira, who had faced accusations of harassment.

“Gregori has now set up a complex system of legal structures and controls that give an appearance of compliance and regularity but that, in reality, hide and cover all Agency’s irregularities,” the complainants alleged.

The complaint named Mark Camilleri – allegedly the subject of harassment complaints by five staff members in the past three years – as being “supported” by Gregori “in all cases”; while the head of internal controls, Gerardo Knouse Ramirez, was accused of covering up mismanagement, as well as being “instrumental in the dismantling” of the post-Carreira crisis plan requested in 2018 by MEPs.

Camilleri and Knouse Ramirez both denied all the accusations included in the complaint, the EUAA said.

They also accused her of rapidly promoting the careers of allies, in breach of EU guidelines, allegations that Gregori and her senior managers rejected in a statement to the FT.

The EUAA is based in Malta and employs about 2,000 people, and gives member states legal, technical and operational assistance on asylum claims.

The employees did not accuse the agency’s management of financial fraud. But they claimed that unjustified salaries were being paid out, and also claimed the agency had hired some people linked to “corruption cases publicly reported across Maltese media”, as well as relatives of some of the agency’s managers who got to “skip the queue” to land jobs. The complainants did not name the people wrongfully recruited.

They also alleged that misleading reports and false information were seny back to the Commission.

OLAF, the EU anti-fraud unit, has confirmed it is evaluating the complaint’s “potential investigative interest according to standard procedures”.

Gregori and the other senior managers cited in the complaint have refuted the allegations. The EUAA said in a statement that it deplored “the repeated use of factual inaccuracies and the distortion of facts intended to damage the good reputation that the Agency and its staff have been steadily building over the past three years”.

The EUAA also said that it would collaborate with OLAF.