Trafigura and the Angolan Presidential Mafia

In two years of operations in Angola, Pumangol has become a leading player in the marketing of Angolan oil, as well as in the distribution of oil products in the country.

This company is a joint venture between multinational Puma Energy, a subsidiary of Swiss based company Trafigura, and its Angolan counterpart Cochan.

In August 2010, President José Eduardo dos Santos authorized a total of five investment contracts worth US$ 931 million, by multinational Puma Energy and its Angolan partner Cochan.

In  a country ranked among the 15 worst in the world to do business, the rapid success of Trafigura and its subsidiary Pumangol  is, by its own right, a case study and one for an in-depth investigation into its dealings with the presidential inner circle.

The Geneva-based company benefits of a swap contract with Sonangol. Trafigura receives Angolan crude oil (in unknown quantities) in exchange for delivering all petroleum products for domestic consumption in Angola. Trafigura apparently sells most of its crude to the Chinese oil parastatal Sinopec.

An investigation by the international magazine Energy Compass, last September indicated that the contract between Trafigura and Sonangol started in 2009. In 2011, it was worth US $3.3 billion for 3.25 million metric tons of imported oil derivatives, according to the magazine. The contract is handled by DTS Refining, a subsidiary of DTS Holdings, also called DT Group. The group, founded in 2008, is based Singapore.

General Leopoldino Fragoso do Nascimento, a top adviser to the minister of State and Chief of Intelligence at the Presidency, general Manuel Hélder Vieira Dias “Kopelipa,“ is one of the directors of DT Group, according to the most recent official records in Singapore, examined by Maka Angola.

Among DTS’s directors are also Claude Dauphin, one of the founders of Trafigura, and the Brazilian national Mariano Marcondes Ferraz, the Trafigura pivot in Angola. The latter signed the nearly one billion dollars investment deals with the Angolan authorities. The company has two more board directors, namely Patrick Waters, a British citizen currently living in Singapore, and Juliana Loh Joo Hui, from Singapore.

DTS Holdings is a joint-venture between Trafigura PTE (Singapore) and Cochan Limited (Singapore). General Leopoldino Fragoso do Nascimento is also director of Cochan Limited, sharing the board with the same Juliana Loh Joo Hui and Johan David Berman, also from Singapore. The only shareholder of Cochan (Singapore) is Cochan Ltd (Bahamas).

A third Cochan company, Cochan S.A., was established in Angola on April 6, 2009. In the billion dollar contracts signed by President Dos Santos, Cochan S.A. owns 51 percent of Pumangol’s shares, while the foreign investor, DT Holdings, holds 49 percent. Nonetheless, the DT Holdings is not so foreign, as its director is the presidential adviser General Leopoldino Fragoso do Nascimento.

But to understand this web of interests, it is imperative first to disclose the nominal owners of Cochan S.A. They are Zandre Eudénio de Campos Finda, Augusto Mondlane de Campos Finda, António Carlos de Oliveira, Telma Marina Alves Pedro Gomes e Eden Zerá de Carvalho Albuquerque.

Who are these individuals?

Zandre Eudénio de Campos Finda is the formal CEO of Nazaki Oil and Gas, the company owned by the current Vice President Manuel Vicente, and generals Kopelipa and Leopoldino Fragoso do Nascimento, in equal shares. Nazaki is the partner of the U.S. oil company Cobalt International, which is exploring the pre-salt blocs 9 and 21. Cobalt is currently under investigation in the United States, by the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission on suspicion of having violated the Foreign Corruption Practices Act, in its joint-venture with Angolan government officials. António Carlos de Oliveira also sits on the board of Nazaki, formally as non-executive director.

Coincidence or not, both Cochan and Nazaki were established and initially headquartered in the same office address in the capital Luanda, at Rua Luís Mota Feo 3-2º,Apt 5, Ingombota. The presidential triumvirate comprising Manuel Vicente, Kopelipa and Leopoldino Fragoso have used the same address to set up almost 40 companies, whose tentacles spread across Angola’s political economy.

Furthermore, Eudénio Finda is also the formal CEO of one of the two mobile phone operators in the country, Movicel. This former state company was privated in 2010. The presidential trio received 40 percent of the shares of Movicel without any public tender, via a decree by President Dos Santos. Portmill Investimentos and Telecomunicações, a company they set up on July 27 2007, and initially headquartered at the same address, became the front for the corrupt officials. As a henchman for general Fragoso and associates, Eudénio Finda also holds a directorship on the executive board of Banco Espírito Santo Angola, where they hold shares.

Usually, in such shell companies, upon their set up, nominal shareholders sign the transfer of the shares and full benefits to the true owners, often government officials. In the case of Cochan S.A. it is just one of the nearly 40 companies that belong to Manuel Vicente, and generals Kopelipa and Leopoldino Fragoso do Nascimento.

What needs to be further investigated are the origins of the hundreds of millions of dollars DT and Cochan are splashing in the business joint-ventures in Angola.

The Law on Administrative Probity defines as  an act of corruption, conducive to illegal enrichment,  the receiving of economic advantage as commission, percentage, gratification or gift, in a direct or indirect form, among other acts, from a party that might have an interest that might be the subject of or seeks to benefit from an action ‘‘arising from the duties of a public servant .

General Fragoso do Nascimento took a directorship abroad, at Cochan Singapore, on May 10, 2010, when he was still the head of telecommunications at the Presidency of the Republic. As a close confidant, and business front for President Dos Santos, General Fragoso do Nascimento would not have engaged in such a venture without the authorization of is commander-in-chief. He remains a director abroad while still working for the presidency, certainly under the orders of general Kopelipa, his immediate superior and business associate, and with the President’s blessing.

In two years of operations, just the distribution outfit of the DT Group, Pumangol, has already built almost 60 gas stations throughout the country. According to information provided by Pumangol’s director Paul Edwards, to the local media, the entreprise has a daily revenue of around one million dollars. He also discloses that his company buys petrol from Sonangol, the National Oil Company. Pumangol is  the Angolan brand for Puma Energy. In September 2011, Trafigura sold 20 percent of Puma Energy to Sonangol Holdings. Pumangol is an obscure company, having not less than eight entities based in the Marshall islands.

The political clout of this company is also measured by the media coverage it gets from public and private outlets,  from which the largest group is also owned by the Kopelipa, Manuel Vicente and Leopoldino Fragoso triumvirate. Each gas station is often inaugurated in the presence of local authorities and media, and the attendant propaganda on how it is set to contribute to the social and economic development of the respective region.

The web of business and political entanglements involving Sonangol, Manuel Vicente, generals Kopelipa and Leopoldino Fragoso do Nascimento, Trafigura, and the myriad of offshore companies raises serious questions. Where does the Sonangol investment in such a joint-venture starts and where do the private interests of the presidential triumvirate, in the same business end ? By following the patterns of previous and similar uses of Sonangol by the trio to advance their corrupt agendas, one can only tremble at the sheer magnitude of plunder of state assets and money laundering schemes this enterprise is engaged in.

Furthermore, there is the fact that President Dos Santos remains unmoved by the fact that general Leopoldino Fragoso do Nascimento can infringe the Angolan legislation by openly taking up private jobs in Singapore, while working for the presidency. It is the hallmark of impunity of the reign of President Dos Santos, and bequeathed unto those close to him.