Geneva-based Kempinski Hotels & Resorts has filed allegations of fraud and professional misconduct against Reto Wittwer, its former president and CEO, who left the company in 2014. According to several online news services, including HotelierMiddleEast (www.hoteliermiddleeast.com
), the criminal charges filed in Switzerland this week alleged Wittwer channelled funds out of the company "with fraudulent intent and avoiding all internal controls," including during periods when Kempinski was struggling with budget cuts to control labor costs.
In a statement, Alejandro Bernabé, Kempinski's current CEO, said, "Kempinski, and everyone associated with the company, has been badly let down by someone in whom we placed our full trust. The high responsibilities of executive office and the fundamental values on which Kempinski has carefully built its business have, we believe, been deliberately flouted in the pursuit of personal greed and unlawful gain. We are treating this matter with the utmost seriousness."
The luxury hotel chain, which was founded in 1897 in Berlin, currently operates 78 hotels in 33 countries. During the past 12 months, the company has opened seven hotels in China, Egypt, Ghana, Qatar and Myanmar, and has another five in its development pipeline.
In October 2014, Kempinski had announced Wittwer was retiring from the company after 19 years of service. However, according to news reports, he was asked to leave the company "with immediate effect" after suspicions of fraud and illegal misconduct came to light. According to Kempinski, the company decided to pursue legal charges following a full internal investigation and audit. "Kempinski has entire confidence in the Swiss criminal authorities with whom the complaint has been filed, and we will fully support the authorities as the criminal complaint follows its due course," said Bernabé.