Angola’s President Suspected of Money-Laundering

The European Justice Commissioner, Vera Jourova, has called on the Portuguese authorities to investigate how Isabel dos Santos, the Angolan President’s daughter, acquired 65% of the Portuguese Energy giant, Efacec Power Solutions, in June last year for US $220 million.

The commission wants proof that the transaction was in compliance with the rules to prevent money-laundering in the EU. Last October, the European Parliament’s Intergroup on Integrity, Transparency, Corruption, and Organised Crime called for an investigation into the legality of the purchase.

Speaking to the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle, the Portuguese MEP Ana Gomes said that the banks had failed to perform due diligence in accordance with EU money-laundering rules. Ms Gomes pointed to the source of funds: transfers from the Angolan State into offshore companies to leverage financial operations by the President’s daughter. “Such transfers are obviously suspect and require extra diligence in checking the origin of the funds”, the MEP said.

The Intergroup report noted that the Efacec acquisition was made through Winterfell Industries, a shell company headquartered in the Madeira Free Zone with a registered capital of only 50,000 Euros. Two months later, in August 2015, President José Eduardo dos Santos issued a presidential order authorising the purchase by the Angolan State of 40% of Winterfell for an undisclosed price.  “This raises the possibility that the Angolan State is indirectly and illegally financing the private investments of his daughter Isabel dos Santos”, their report concluded.

Ana Gomes said the Portuguese government had come under increasing pressure from the European authorities regarding respect for the anti-money-laundering measures.  The Europeans are tightening the rules in the face of adverse publicity over too many schemes that look to involve money-laundering.  “This is not exclusive to Angola,” she clarifies, “there are other cases like that of Banif [Banco Internacional do Funchal] in Equatorial Guinea in 2013-14.”

One of the authors of a recent book on foreign ownership of blue ribbon Portuguese companies, Filipe Alves, underlines just how strong the Angolan influence has become over the past decade.   “It is a fact that Angola has taken greater control of strategic sectors. It is undeniable. Both public and private sectors in Portugal are in debt and foreign capital is needed.  The important issue in this is not whether the foreign investor is Angolan or Chinese or America, it is whether the rules are followed and that there is proper scrutiny.”