Sindika Dokolo: Chronicle of a Crime Foretold

The never-ending story of Angola’s long-serving President José Eduardo dos Santos (36 years in power and counting) and his billionaire family has resulted in yet another lawsuit being presented to the Office of Attorney General of the Republic for action.  This time, the alleged offender is the president’s Congolese son-in-law, Sindika Dokolo, the multi-millionaire businessman hitherto eclipsed by his billionaire wife, Isabel dos Santos. In short, a provincial governor already accused of illegitimately helping himself to land, then allowed the President’s son-in-law to acquire enough land to found a small city for a peppercorn price of less than US$10,000.

Investigative journalist Rafael Marques de Morais, filed today the complaint against the Governor of the province of Kwanza Sul, General Eusébio de Brito Teixeira. The complaint also names as the governor’s partners in crime, the famed art collector Sindika Dokolo and his company, Soklinker (Soklinker Parceiros Comerciais, Lda), as well as its manager Luís Carlos Tavira. Mr Dokolo, who has dual Danish and Congolese nationality, directly owns 75% of Soklinker.  The lawsuit seeks to invalidate the Governor’s unilateral concession of a large parcel of land for real estate development, equivalent to half the size of Washington DC, to Soklinker for a pittance.

A year ago, on January 26, 2015, the unfortunate provincial governor, General signed a land concession to Soklinker (Case no. 81-KS/20009).   The land in question was a 7,632-hectares ‘rural parcel’ situated in the area known as Ex-Carvalho, in the community of Gangula in Sumbe municipality.  The governor’s decree stipulated that this was for “the purpose of construction”.  In effect, this would create a city larger than the Chinese-built Kilamba City, which currently has more than 50,000 residents.

However, the provincial governor was acting beyond his remit on two counts.

Firstly, Angola’s Land Law only permits the provincial governor to dispose of lands of up to 1,000 hectares.  For greater parcels of between 1,000 and 10,000 hectares, they have to defer to the LandRegistry and the appropriate local authority.  Furthermore, the Law governing Local Administration specifies that jurisdiction over the disposal of lands lies with the collective provincial government and not the individual serving as governor.

The law does not recognise the concept of “a rural parcel for construction”. Rural lands are defined as “communal or common lands, agrarian or farmland, nature reserves and forestry, lands reserved for industrial infrastructure and transport and utility corridors” (Land Law Art. 22).

A further aggravating factor is that no land transaction should defraud the State of its legitimate interest and dues.  In this case, the contract was worth Kz 1.5 million (the equivalent of US $14,615) to be paid in five annual installments (without regard to interest, inflation or monetary correction).  One year later, the value of that plot had dropped to the equivalent of US $9,806 (at the official exchange rate).  Also, rural land is valued at a far lesser price than urban land, so the purchase of rural land in the prior knowledge that it is to be transformed into urban land for construction has the effect of defrauding the Angolan State.  The complaint against General Eusébio de Brito Teixeira further alleges that in committing this invalid act he failed in his duty to protect the public heritage.

According to the complainant, it was illegal for the Governor to exceed his authority, illegal for the rural land to be ceded in this way, illegal for the price to be set so low and illegal in that it defrauds the State of its dues.

Is it a coincidence that the beneficiary was the President’s son-in-law?  Is it a coincidence that the President’s family would derive an illegal financial benefit from this transaction?

Sadly, this is only the latest revelation in an entire chronicle of dubious financial transactions involving Angola’s President, his favoured daughter Isabel and the first family.  Angola-watchers say this is just the tip of the iceberg and a cautionary tale for anyone doing business with the first family.