Dams for the Damned

When China and Angola signed a US $4.5 billion financing agreement last year to fund the construction of a dam and hydro-electric power station at Caculo Cabaça in Kwanza-Norte province, did the Chinese realize this project would be for the benefit of the Angolan President’s daughter?

The loan from the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), is meant to pay for the services of the consortium selected to build the hydro-electric dam. But the backstory reveals, yet again, how President José Eduardo dos Santos uses his presidential decrees and orders to enrich his own family.

Evidence supplied to Maka Angola shows that Isabel dos Santos will be a major beneficiary of the deal signed on her daddy’s behalf by Finance Minister Archer Mangueira, with all concerned apparently unaware of procedures required by law (and followed by the rest of the world) to obtain tenders for major publics works projects.

How do we know Isabel benefits? Join the dots.

José Eduardo dos Santos signed Presidential Order 58/15 in June of 2015, to approve the Caculo Cabaça Hydroelectric Project and authorize the Energy and Water Ministry to enter into a US $4 billion contract with a consortium formed by CGGC (China Gezhouba Group Company) and Niara Holding. The President included the project in the Annual Public Investment Programme (PIP) and instructed the Finance Minister to obtain a loan from the ICBC.

Somewhere along the line, an additional US $500 million was appended to the original budget without explanation.

Was the Presidential Order authorizing this major public works preceded by any public competition for tenders or formal procurement procedure as required by Angola’s Law on Public Works Contracts?

According to lawyer Horácio Junjuvili, “this project was awarded [to CGGC and Niara Holding Limitada] without any previously known tender, thus making it illegal under the Law on Public Works Contracts”, The lawyer adds that the project does not qualify for presidential exclusion under the law.

Furthermore, the Presidential Order refers to what appear to be two companies – CGGC and NIARA – but in fact at that point there was no such consortium, only a single company registered in Angola on May 23, 2013 under the name “CGGC & Niara Holding, Limitada”.

Equal partners in CGGC & Niara were “ 2I’S – Sociedade de Investimentos Industriais, S.A.” and “CGGC-Engenharia de Angola, Lda.” represented by Zhou Cheng.

Curiously, 2I’S head office is registered at one of Isabel dos Santos’ private residences in Luanda.

The purported partners in 2I’s were Machel Bruno Nuno Cordeiro dos Santos (99% of the shares), Joaquim Augusto Martins, Graça de Fátima da Costa Rocha, Edith Cassule Lourenço Neto Correia and Iola da Graça Maurício Quaresma.

It has been suggested to Maka Angola that it would be wholly unlikely for a handful of total strangers to register a company at Isabel dos Santos’ home, without her knowledge. Isabel dos Santos used the same private home address when, in 2013, she registered Niara Holding Limitada in the Portuguese Island of Madeira, a tax haven.


One year later, on June 3, 2016, President dos Santos issued Order No. 108/16, to add China Ghebouza Group Company Limited and Boreal Investments Limited to the ‘consortium’ awarded the Caculo Cabaça dam project. Once again this order appears to have been issued in contravention of Angola’s public works contract law, given that there was no competition for tender or any formal procurement process.

This time the CGGC company listed is the one with headquarters in the Chinese province of Hubei and now it would form 60% of the consortium (as revealed by the company in 2015) while Boreal, a private firm based in Hong Kong, would hold 37.5%, leaving a mere 2.5% for the original CGGC & NIARA ‘consortium’.

The lawyer who acted on 2I’s Sociedade de Investimentos Industriais S.A.’s behalf to set up CGGC & Niara Holdings, was Isabel dos Santos’s personal Angolan lawyer, Fidel Kiluanje Assis Araújo, a man who has routinely represented Isabel in her business dealings.

So it should come as no surprise that in October 2016, just four months after Presidential Order No. 108/16, 10,000 shares in Boreal Investments Ltd. were transferred to Fidel Kiluanje Assis Araújo, who is shown as a Director in Boreal Investments Ltd, as listed on the Hong Kong Company Register No. 1616878.

Further directorships at Boreal Investments Ltd. included Ko Nema Mbamogo Mwenenge, a French citizen also connected to a series of businesses belonging to Isabel dos Santos and her husband Sindika Dokolo (such as Exem Holding A.G, Exem Energy B.V, Exem Oil & Gas B.V, Exem Mining B.V. based in the Netherlands).

The President’s daughter is contributing nothing to the funding or the actual construction of the Caculo Cabaça dam. So what is the role of these companies linked to Isabel dos Santos, other than to obtain a slice of the profits?

Sowing confusion to reap greater rewards

The Caculo Cabaça project is not the first time Isabel dos Santos has managed to benefit from Chinese funds thanks to profitable contracts awarded to her via presidential orders signed by her father.

Back on September 27, 2013, Presidential Decree No. 90/13 was issued for works to increase the capacity (from 8 to 34 MW) of the Luachimo Dam in Lunda Norte. The US $200 million project was awarded to China’s CGGC. On October 13, 2016, José Eduardo dos Santos’s government staged a formal ceremony with CGGC to start the project, with completion scheduled in 2019.

However, CGGC, sub-contracted the work to a company named Niara Power. By now, you will not be surprised to learn that Niara Power is a subsidiary of Niara Holding, both owned by Isabel dos Santos.

And what does Niara Power do? It subcontracts the work to yet another company, this time a Portuguese company named Efacec Power Solutions, which proudly announced the deal on its website.

“Efacec has just signed a deal with Niara Power worth US $83 million as the sub-contractor for the Chinese engineering and construction group Gezhouba Group (CGGC), one of the biggest and most important civil construction companies in the world, in particular in dam construction.

Yet Efacec Power Solutions is just another of the ‘universe’ of companies that belongs to Isabel dos Santos. Records show that 72.6% of Efacec belongs to a Maltese-registered company called Winterfell thanks to a capital injection in 2015. That same year, Niara Holding sold 40% of its share in Winterfell to the Angolan state-owned electricity company Empresa Nacional de Distribuição de Electricidade – Empresa Pública (ENDE E.P), a deal previously approved by the President, with the sale price kept secret to this day. And Niara retains 60% of the shares in Winterfell, which means Isabel dos Santos is the majority shareholder in Efacec.

In addition to the Luachimo project, Efacec was also awarded a series of additional lucrative contracts in the Angolan energy and water supply sector, including the contract o supply high power transformers for the Laúca dam and the rehabilitation of the Gove dam in Huambo.

Recently Isabel dos Santos has doubled down on the number of public statements and interviews with the media both inside Angola and abroad, trying to present herself as the victim of persecution and prejudice just because she is the President’s daughter. And yet to her fellow Angolans, Isabel is far from a victim. Instead they see her as a predator, with an insatiable lust for wealth accumulation not from hard work, but thanks to the corrupt and nepotistic decisions of her father.

Maka Angola contacted Isabel dos Santos’s PR company, Luís Paixão Martins Comunicação on April 1, with a list of questions regarding her involvement in the companies involved in these deals. To date no response has been received.