Paul Schonenberg, at the AMCHAM Thanksgiving Dinner in November 2018; Credit:

On Wednesday, the American Chamber of Commerce in Luxembourg (AMCHAM) released a statement in response to a series of allegations in the Lëtzebuerger Journal in two articles published on Thursday 7 February and on Sunday 10 February 2019.

The articles (in German) centred around AMCHAM's Chairman of 19 years, Paul Schonenberg, alleging that he "took advantage of his position to enrich himself, deceive the association with its members, the taxpayer and the state, and also benevolent donors". They mention the association he established, "Xpat Luxembourg" which was intended to facilitate the integration of expatriates, and was later renamed "International Communities of Luxembourg asbl" (ICL). The allegations go on to mention donations of computer equipment and office furniture, as well as financial support from OLAI and other organisations, and the flow of funds between AMCHAM and ICL, as well as the (mis)use of an AMCHAM credit card for personal purchases.

Reference is made in the articles of correspondence obtained from AMCHAM with other personnel including its treasurer, James O'Neal. And questions were asked about money obtained to create the "MyLanguages" app and language courses too, all linked with "integration" aims. The articles also mentioned the names of other individuals, in senior positions in business and in politics in Luxembourg.

Today's statement from AMCHAM, signed by both Paul Schonenberg in his position as Chairman, and Gareth Reynolds in his position as Secretary, is addressed to "AMCHAM colleagues and friends". It references the two articles which it describes as a "hatchet job", and responds directly to the accusations. In it, Paul Schonenberg denies using AMCHAM credit cards for purchasing any of the items mention in the articles for personal or any unauthorised use. He also rejects the allegations of defrauding the Luxembourg government and other organisations.

In fact, he strongly suspects and suggests that the articles have come about from a (disgruntled) former employee who was dismissed from their post last December. Following a "comprehensive internal forensic investigation", "very serious wrong doing" was unearthed which resulted in not only the termination of the employee's contract, but also the filing of a detailed criminal complaint with the public prosecutor on 31 January 2019. Currently the criminal investigation is in the hands of Luxembourg's public prosecutor.

AMCHAM has initiated "a full and comprehensive review" of all actions and activities over the past three years, including both internal employees and volunteers, as well as forensic auditors and other qualified external experts, with a complete report to be presented to the Executive Committee and members.

Going back to a recent AGM of AMCHAM, it was Paul Schonenberg himself who initiated an investigation in the organisation's cash management. It was this investigation which apparently unearthed the wrong doings mentioned above, resulting in the termination of the employee's contract and filing of the criminal complaint.

What is clear is that the AMCHAM brand has been affected, as well as the reputation of Paul Schonenberg, and others too by association. It is likely that this issue and the various allegations will only be resolved once the criminal investigation is concluded, possibly through the Luxembourg courts. Maybe the AMCHAM-internal review will also identify shortcomings in procedures, the end result of which should be a tightening of governance and risk management.