Unveiling Corruption Is Indeed Donkey Work

A Forbes article once obliged Isabel dos Santos by repeating her claim that she was Africa’s richest woman: a self-made billionaire who said she began her mercurial business career by selling eggs in the street on her way to school. 

Perhaps she did sell eggs, once upon a time though knowing the origins of her later seed capital does make you wonder who it was that owned the hens.  And I can guarantee there was no egg selling in the streets around Brook Green, London when the daughter of Angola’s then President was attending the US$ 15,000 a year fee-paying St. Paul’s Girls School.  

Isabel has an affinity for the British capital which is a favoured destination for the world’s money launderers. With her husband Sindiko Dokolo, she owns (via a shell company) at least one multi-million-dollar property in an exclusive gated community in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, thanks to a “publicly-aired planning dispute” which revealed the true owner to be Mrs Dokolo, aka the “billionaire daughter of an African kleptocrat”.

It isn’t hard to trace the origins of Isabel’s reputed ‘billions’ as Maka Angola has shown, repeatedly.  She owes it all to her father, José Eduardo dos Santos, who during his 38 years (1979-2017) as President of the Republic of Angola, used Angola’s oil wealth to enrich himself, his family and all those he needed to sustain him in power.

As Forbes journalists and others determined, Isabel’s fortune has “largely been derived from her political connections; she would emerge as the beneficiary of lucrative state contracts decreed by her father or receive chunks of companies wanting to invest in Angola.”

Not so, says Isabel over and over, though without providing any evidence to refute the allegations against her. Take for example her reaction to this article, which revealed that once again Isabel is taking money from the Angolan public purse, this time a loan funded by a German credit line intended for the Angolan government. The article reports that, in 2015, Isabel’s brewery obtained a 49.7 million euro loan from the state-owned BPC (the Banco de Poupança e Crédito), thanks to a line of credit set up by the German investment bank, the KfW IPEX-Bank for Angola.

Isabel’s reaction is to call the reporter, Rafael Marques de Morais, a “donkey incapable of understanding that the money does not come from public funds”.  She insists that the bank loan she took is not “public money”. 

Let us spell this out for her:  the BPC loan is funded by a German line of credit issued to the Angolan government and that line of credit is being repaid by the Angolan government. With public money. Fact.

Surely Isabel must realize, in spite of her entitled poor-little-rich-girl upbringing, that you can’t fool all the people all the time, no matter how many times you repeat a lie.  And she should know that donkeys are not so much dumb as stubborn.  Doing the ‘donkey work’ to reveal corruption by politically-exposed persons is why Maka Angola exists and it’s why insiders and whistleblowers are willing to pass on evidence of corruption for publication. 

Isabel states she “never used public funds” to get rich.  Really?  Then what about the Sonangol money which launched her acquisition of shares in the Portuguese oil company GALP?  Maka Angola has the paperwork from the 2006 contract between her BIV-registered offshore company Exem Africa Ltd and Sonangol.  Sonangol acquired 45% of Amorim Energia BV   (which in turn controlled 33.34% of GALP) via Esperaza Holding, registered as a Sonangol-owned company in the Netherlands.    Esperaza then transferred 40% of its GALP stock to Isabel’s company, Exem Africa.

Isabel was contractually obliged to pay for this acquisition in two stages:  Exem was supposed to give Sonangol the first 15% of the agreed cost upfront, amounting to 11.2 million Euros (US $12.5 million), with the balance comprising 63.8 million euros (US $71.5 million) to be paid later.

Ten years later, when her father named Isabel as Chair of the Board of Sonangol in 2016, Exem had yet to pay a single cent of the amount due.  Isabel apparently offered Sonangol a sum in Angolan kwanzas which insiders said bore no relation to the actual sum owed, infuriating Carlos Saturnino, who replaced her as head of Sonangol.   Saturnino demanded she pay the going rate for the shares, in foreign currency.

To this day Isabel has yet to provide any proof of any payment by Exem Africa to Sonangol for the GALP stock.

Insiders accuse the former President’s daughter of having benefited from an illegal transfer of state patrimony (oil revenue funds channelled through Sonangol) authorized by her father, the then President – a sum worth more than US $80 million which she has never paid back.  Even if she were to pay up now, Isabel clearly got her start from Angolan public funds.  Not to mention a 13 year (and counting) repayment holiday.

Sonangol, and in particular Manuel Vicente, who signed the stock-transfer contract with Isabel, should come clean.  Because nowhere in Sonangol’s published accounts is there any record of payment by Isabel for the Esperaza/Amorim/Galp stock.

At odds with Isabel’s PR campaign which presents her as someone who brings added value to any investment vehicle, Maka Angola has heard from a source in Portugal that her connection with GALP has made it harder to obtain investment for oil and gas projects in Mozambique and Angola.  “Some banks have turned GALP down precisely because of the presence of Isabel dos Santos, a Politically-Exposed Person, on the board,” says the source, “other banks would only offer a loan at elevated rates of interest because they have reason to fear that GALP’s link to Isabel dos Santos puts it at greater risk.”

Maka Angola legal expert Rui Verde says “Isabel dos Santos’s stock in GALP should be slapped with a lien or retention of title in favour of Sonangol until and unless her company pays off, in full, all the entire amount owed.”  Additionally, it should be noted that it was not ever legal for Sonangol, a state-owned company, to function as a private investment bank for the president’s family.”  In Rui Verde’s opinion,  “The transfer of stock to Isabel dos Santos should be decreed null and void and the stock should be immediately returned to Sonangol.”

The truth is that Angola is still unable to call to account the corrupt leaders who have robbed it blind.  Those in power today are crippled by the fear that any action against their former President could bring down the entire ruling party and lead to chaos.  This is what enables Angola’s pampered ‘Princesa’ to boast of her great expertise as an investor in Portugal when the whole world knows it wasn’t her money she invested and no expertise was required.

When there is documentary evidence that proves someone is a fraud and a liar, Maka Angola is not just happy to do the donkey work to make it public but will stubbornly continue to call for the corrupt to be brought to justice. Sadly for Isabel dos Santos, no matter how often she protests her innocence, the facts speak for themselves.