Schneider adds to lucrative post-politics business career
Former Economy Minister Etienne Schneider is adding to his post-politics business career, becoming chairman of the board of a Luxembourg construction company owned by a Belgian parent firm that Schneider already helps lead.
Schneider has been building a portfolio of board positions in the 16 months since stepping down after eight years in leading government positions. He was appointed last year to the board of directors of Belgian real estate and construction firm Besix Group after bagging lucrative posts at steel-maker ArcelorMittal and Russian holding company Sistema PJSFC.
On Tuesday, Luxembourg construction company Lux TP said Schneider will become its new board of directors' head. Lux TP – which is responsible for building projects including the Pfaffenthal-Kirchberg funicular and the headquarters of sweets-maker Ferrero near the airport – is a subsidiary of Brussels-based Besix Group.
As a private company, Besix does not report what it pays directors or other individuals, a spokesman told Luxembourg Times last year. Schneider can expect to collect more than €370,000 annually from board positions at publicly traded ArcelorMittal and Sistema, run by Russian oligarch Vladimir Evtushenkov. Sistema is involved in telecommunications, retail, healthcare and banking, including Luxembourg-based East-West United Bank.
Schneider's appointment comes after he refused an invitation to explain to lawmakers why he sold state-owned industrial land to yogurt-maker Fage, which eventually backed out of plans for a new factory. Schneider's successor, Economy Minister Franz Fayot, in January promised reforms after the country's budget watchdog blasted the land sale made seemly at Schneider's discretion. The economy ministry lacked documentary evidence about the transaction and had not made clear enough why it was selling the land to Fage, rather than sticking to the usual practice of leasing it out, Luxembourg's Court of Auditors found. Fage withdrew its construction plans last September after mounting doubts over the plant's economic benefits, environmental concerns, and after the public prosecutor started looking into reports of company spending on fictitious consultants.
Schneider last year also landed an unpaid position on the government's space resources advisory board despite parliament members doubting his explanations about why a military observation satellite he backed soared beyond projections in cost. Schneider last year told lawmakers he had nothing to hide after being grilled about why the initial budget for the LUXEOSys more than doubled because the earlier estimate failed to take into account operational costs.
The parliament agreed in November to increase spending on the yet-unlaunched satellite by 82% to €309 million. The satellite is part of Luxembourg's plan to boost military spending beyond its current 0.6% of the country's gross domestic product (GDP), far below the 2% level pledged by all NATO members.
(Additional reporting by Patrick Jacquemot)