The Antwerp-based youth workshop group Let’s Go Urban (LGU) is being investigated for financial irregularities, according to the commercial court in Antwerp, the VRT reports.
The group, which organises dance, hip-hop, slam poetry and fitness training workshops for young people in the city, has been placed under temporary receivership for three months.
LGU was set up in 2009 by the then 23-year-old Sihame El Kaouakibi, sixth of seven children of a Moroccan-descent family from Boom. It was the first of several projects she created for youth (and particularly urban youth) and women.
The group won several prizes, including the Flemish culture prize for amateur arts and the Antwerp City of Culture Award, and El Kaouakibi was adopted by the Antwerp wing of Open VLD, who put her name forward as a board member of the Flemish public broadcaster VRT.
She was elected in 2019 to the Flemish parliament for Open VLD, although her lack of party discipline has irritated senior members – as when she voted for an opposition motion on using secret callers to root out racism among letting agencies.
The latest news comes after three directors of LGU resigned in protest at the way the group was being run, lodging a complaint with the commercial court in the process. They accuse the group of a lack of financial transparency.
A receiver will now take over the affairs of the group for the next three months, in an attempt to find out if the accusations are true.
At the same time, the city of Antwerp has launched its own investigation into the subsidies paid out to LGU over the years – including but not limited to €1.4 million in 2017 and 2018 for their current headquarters.
One avenue of investigation will look into whether subsidies granted for LGU made their way into the coffers of other organisations, including those associated with El Kaouakibi.
El Kaouakibi herself told the VRT the appointment of a receiver came as a surprise, and accused the three former directors of “a transparent attempt at character assassination by some opponents who have been trying to destabilise me for quite some time.”
She had been the first, she said, to demand an audit, “in order to show that my hands are clean. The latest development shows that some people are not willing to put the importance of Let’s Go Urban first. I cannot accept this,” she said.