On the afternoon of Monday 15 May 2023, a hearing took place at the District Court of Luxembourg in relation to fraud allegations involving a former employee of the American Chamber of Commerce in Luxembourg (AMCHAM).

The hearing took place in the absence of the defendant whose present whereabouts are apparently unknown.

Malek had worked at AMCHAM between 2013 and 2018; in December 2018, she was fired for allegedly stealing money from her employer. Subsequently, a Luxembourg newspaper published articles alleging that it was AMCHAM Chairman and CEO Paul Schonenberg who had been involved in fraud. An investigation ensued, with the accusations ultimately dropped. Nevertheless, the incident reportedly had a negative impact on the reputation of AMCHAM.

Malek was then the subject of a fraud investigation. The accused allegedly used AMCHAM's professional bank cards for her own personal gain and embezzled nearly €100,000 between 2016 and 2018.

Fast forward to Monday when the indicted individual failed to turn up to the court hearing, thus breaking her pre-trial release conditions. A defence lawyer was present on Monday afternoon, but mainly to (briefly) defend the interests of the accused's now ex-husband. Three witnesses, including Mr Schonenberg, had also been invited to testify.

As the witnesses explained, Malek had been hired to assist the office manager at AMCHAM before taking over the role herself. Paul Schonenberg noted that she had initially appeared "conscientious" and was a "well-liked [...] and trusted employee". However, in 2016/2017, auditors discovered an annual loss of around €50,000, he explained, adding that he had expressed his disappointment at this "unacceptable" finding at a subsequent board meeting. Malek allegedly volunteered to set up a monthly reporting system, but her workload reportedly prevented her from following through.

The following year, another €50,000 appeared to have gone missing. This discovery led to the hiring of an external expert to investigate the matter. Having put a tracking system in place, the expert reportedly went on to discover that Malek was responsible for the money going missing. Mr Schonenberg added that AMCHAM, having sought legal advice, decided to terminate the accused's employment contract in December 2018 and approached Malek and her then husband to discuss the matter further. AMCHAM requested an acknowledgement of guilt in writing and an apology to its members, the accused's help in "clarifying the details" of her actions and a financial settlement. Nothing came of this alleged verbal agreement and the accused instead filed a complaint against Mr Schonenberg for harrassment. The press allegations later followed.

Mr Schonenberg said that he had offered to resign at the time over the bad publicity, but the executive board did not accept his resignation. "I have given 25 years of my life to AMCHAM," he said in court. "I didn't want to leave AMCHAM on a bad note, with this dark cloud over my head". He described the whole experience as "really horrible", both for him personally and for AMCHAM, whose membership reportedly took a hit.

As the hearing continued, he confirmed that Malek had not been authorised to use the organisation's bank and credit cards but was later found to have done so.

The second witness, then treasurer and current secretary of AMCHAM, James O'Neal, who had been asked to leave the room for Paul Schonenberg's testimony, largely corroborated his colleague's version of events. He explained that he had been tasked with a forensic investigation of the accounts following the revelations, which put to an end "the age of innocence" at AMCHAM. The organisation has since implemented an up-to-date tracking system to prevent such an event from occurring again in future, he noted. Mr O'Neal agreed that Malek had been a trusted employee in the beginning, although she later revealed herself as "a professional sociopathic criminal whose modus operandi is embezzling money". Indeed, AMCHAM later learned that the accused had been convicted a first time back in 2010, although this reportedly had not appeared in her initial background check.

The witness added that the accused had tried to "destroy" and discredit her opponents, namely AMCHAM and Paul Schonenberg, "to save her own skin".

The third witness, the external expert who had identified Malek as the one responsible for taking the money, confirmed how she had come to this discovery and how the accused had also tried to discredit her.

AMCHAM's lawyer later described the accused as possessing "unparalleled criminal energy behind an angel's face", adding that her defence took the form of an attack, lying and trying to put the blame on others.

In his summary, the prosecutor recalled that the accused had been unauthorised to use AMCHAM's bank card, and accused her of theft, fraud and forgery, among other crimes. He requested her acquittal in areas such as the breach of trust but went on to propose a 48-month prison sentence and a fine.

The verdict is expected at the end of June 2023.