Angola’s Sovereign Wealth Fund – the US $5 billion logo

The Angolan Sovereign Wealth Fund (FSDEA) was launched in October to great fanfare, receiving global media coverage from the likes of the New York Times, CNN and Euromoney.

Local and international journalists packed into the shiny new offices by Sagrada Família upmarket area in Luanda to admire the glass and steel spiral staircase, lacquered furniture and raw silk wallpaper.

They were given stylish press packs featuring black and white photographs of smiling Angolan children and told how the FSDEA would change Angola for the better and preserve the country’s great oil wealth for the use of future generations.

After a lavish lunch buffet complete with drinks served by a suited barman, there was a film shown by a South African production team who had collated clips of “ordinary” Angolans saying how much they loved their country, and a mumbled speech and Powerpoint presentation from Board Chairman Armando Manuel.

In the Q & A session that followed, Manuel, who is also President José Eduardo dos Santos’ Secretary for Economic Affairs, admitted that the FSDEA was basically a “remodeled” version of the existing Oil Fund (FP).

And as he sat there alongside his two other board members – Dos Santo’s eldest son, José Filomeno de Sousa dos Santos “Zenu” and Hugo Gonçalves, a relative of former Economy Minister Manuel Nunes Jr. – the chairman also admitted that the FSDEA had no legal framework of its own, nor any investment policies.

Despite this, and stressing to date the fund had had made no acquisitions or investments, he went on to confidently outline the fund’s plans to invest in Angola’s hospitality sector and to open a hotel school to attract students from across Africa.

It’s hard to imagine how building hotels will meet Angola’s chronic development needs and why/how prospective African hospitality students would want to study in the continent’s most expensive capital, where little English is spoken.

Two months on from that launch, in December, there is still no legal framework or investment policy and the FSDEA is now starting to look like little more than an expensive logo.

But to really make sense of the fund we need to unpack how it came about and the people involved it its creation and management.

The idea for an oil-for-infrastructure fund was first floated in September 2010 by the then Minister of State in the Presidency Carlos Feijó in response to calls from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for Angola to create a more “medium-term approach” to its spending.

Six months later, in March 2011, it was formalized as the Oil Fund via a Presidential Decree which explained it would use the direct revenues from the equivalent of 100,00 barrels of oil per day (bpd) to pay for water and power improvement projects.

According to the decree, which was never submitted to the National Assembly so in some eyes never legitimized, the fund could invest in whatever it wanted and was accountable only to the Presidency.

Economists who looked at the statutes agreed it spoke to the language of a Sovereign Wealth Fund under the label of an oil-for-infrastructure fund, but like many things in Angola, the Oil Fund slipped quickly from the public radar.

In early 2012 there were reports in private media and on social networks that “Zenu” had been appointed to the board of the fund.

Many people were incredulous. “It wasn’t possible, Dos Santos had more sense surely,” some voices uttered. “It could only be a rumor….” But it turned out to be true.

Then in August this year the British property press reported that “Angola’s Sovereign Wealth Fund” had bought a piece of prime London real estate for US$350 million.

Heads were scratched: How could a Sovereign Wealth Fund that didn’t exist be buying up property in London?

And moreover, why was the deal itself done by a third party, a Swiss-based investment firm called Quantum Global?

Closer examination revealed that one of Quantum Global’s lynchpins is Swiss/Angolan businessman Jean Claude Bastos de Morais, a close personal friend of Zenu and co-owner with him of Angola’s first investment bank, Banco Kwanza Invest.

Even closer examination revealed that Swiss citizen Marcel Kruse, a long-time business partner of Bastos de Morais, is the CEO of Banco Kwanza, which until 2010 was called Banco Quantum.

And, according to the Swiss registry Moneyhouse, a former Bundesbank chairman,  Ernest Welteke, owns Quantum Global. He is also the non-executive chairman of the Board of Directors of Banco Kwanza.

At the launch of the FSDEA, which was organized by an army of impeccably dressed public relations wizards flown in from Dubai, Lisbon, Zurich, Johannesburg and London –notably none from Luanda – Manuel insisted that there was no link between Banco Kwanza and the FSDEA.

Zenu personally announced to the waiting microphones that he was “in the process of selling his shares” in the bank to avoid any perceptions of conflicts of interests, though we understand to date this “process” still continues.

This is not Quantum Global’s first involvement in Angola. It has been running funds worth US$ billions for the Banco Nacional de Angola for some years now. In a recent newspaper interview, in Switzerland, Bastos de Morais claimed he was the brain behind Angola’s idea for a sovereign fund.

None of the assembled journalists asked about Quantum’s relationship to the fund, though one foreign newspaper report afterwards quoted Zenu from a one-to-one interview saying that Quantum were the “temporary” liquid asset managers and would remain so until the creation of a formal investment policy would allow a public tender.

As no investment policy has yet been created, we can assume that Quantum has retained the management responsibility for Angola’s money.

And since the FSDEA, and its predecessor the Oil Fund, have no paper trail, we can only guess how much money has been spent and how, all of which feels a little at odd with the loud commitment to transparency in the launch literature.

The fund does have a website which is more than you can say for most Angolan government departments (if indeed this is one, knowing that it has no legal status and is part-run by a son of the President).

But besides the pretty black and white pictures of children (as seen in the press pack) there is little substance, as it contains mostly links leading back to the same PDF carrying the following two paragraphs.

“The Fundo Soberano de Angola will gradually diversify its investment portfolio across a number of industries and asset classes including global private and public stocks; bonds; foreign currencies; financial derivatives; commodities; treasury bills; and real estate and infrastructure funds, in accordance with its investment policy and guidelines.

“The Fundo Soberano de Angola also has developed a clear and strong long-term positioning beyond a simple economic profit maximisation strategy, by focusing part of its portfolio on investments that will lead to economic growth as well as a positive social impact for a broad part of Angola‘s population. Through this approach it aims to unfold potentials that would otherwise go unnoticed due to a lack of invested capital.”

If this jumble of long words was meant to impress, it only leaves us with more questions about what the fund is and how it will operate.

We are also unsure why the FSDEA has chosen to outsource its public relations to Spicy Communications, a newly formed Swiss-based company owned by Bastos de Morais and the Dubai office of the London-owned outfit Grayling Momentum. On FSDEA’s website, the contact information provided includes the email address of Nicole Anwer from Spicy Communications, alongside an Angolan cellphone, that when called, gives a message saying the number is “not attributed”. There is no landline number given. Can a US$5billion fund not have a phone?

Maka Angola – and many Angolans – are wondering how US $5 billion of Angolan public money has wound up managed by a logo whose strings are being pulled in Switzerland by friends of the President’s son, some of whom have recently been convicted for criminal mismanagement.

The Talented Mr. Bastos de Morais

One of the convicts is Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais, the closest business associate of President Dos Santos’ son, José Filomeno “Zenú”. He was convicted by a criminal court in the Swiss canton of Zug for “repeated qualified criminal mismanagement.” The judgment dates back to July 13, 2011.

Bastos de Morais first appealed the judgment. On December 11, he was scheduled to meet the deadline for another appeal at the High Court of Zug. The businessman withdrew from appealing, and the conviction has now entered into force. According to a press release issued by Bastos de Morais’ communications agency, Spicy Communications, the reason for the withdrawal is that he was “acquitted in all major charges.” And that what remained was “only a conditional fine and another one for two formally incorrect wage payments.”

He also denied to the “Handelszeitung” that his business activities in Angola are due to his good relationship with the Angolan princeling. “That’s not the case,” he said.

According to Bastos de Morais, the idea of setting up a state fund for venture capital is his brainchild. He mentioned to have close relationships with several ministers, including the minister of Economy, Abrahão Gourgel, who “was willing to listen.” Through the attentive hears of the minister, and through a web of connections, Banco Kwanza secured hundreds of millions of dollars from the Angolan Central Bank to invest abroad. At the time, minister Abrahão Gourgel, was the head of the central bank. “The Minister was able to place the idea, I was the producer.”

“I am a machine of ideas,” boasted Bastos de Morais.

Longtime business partner of Bastos, Marcel Krüse, who is currently the CEO of Banco Kwanza, was also convicted in the Zug court on the same case.

Bastos received a suspended fine of 160,000 Swiss Francs, and has to pay 4,500 Swiss francs. The court handed Marcel Krüse a suspended fine of 170,000 Swiss francs, and has to pay 5,000. A suspended fine means they don’t have to pay the fine unless they commit another crime within the next two years. Nevertheless, both get a criminal record.