The Trial: The Plaintiff’s Confusing Complaints

Finally, on May 21, 2018, the plaintiff appeared in court, some three months after the scheduled start of the trial. The former attorney general of the Republic, General João Maria de Sousa (2007-2017), had one condition: The trial had to be held in camera during his testimony. It would no longer be in the office of the attorney general, as he initially petitioned. Judge Josina Falcão explained that it would be impossible to keep the plaintiff’s testimony a secret, because the two journalists on trial would reveal it to the public. She stressed that the General would have to sit on the witness stand like anyone else. No special chair for him. As he entered the courtroom, he told his security detail to take their seats. His lawyer signaled him to keep them out, and he obliged. He was in an uncomfortable position, his hands trembled throughout the proceedings. The […]

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Angola’s Rafael Marques named 70th IPI Press Freedom Hero

Journalist Rafael Marques de Morais, who has braved decades of harassment and prosecution to expose corruption and human rights abuses in his native Angola, has been named the International Press Institute (IPI)’s 70th World Press Freedom Hero. IPI’s World Press Freedom Hero award honours journalists who have made significant contributions to the promotion of press freedom, particularly in the face of great personal risk. Together with the annual Free Media Pioneer award, it will be presented during a special ceremony on June 22 in Abuja, Nigeria during IPI’s annual World Congress and General Assembly. For the past four years, both awards have been given in partnership with Copenhagen-based International Media Support. Marques began his career as a reporter for the state-owned newspaper Jornal de Angola in 1992, before being fired over his willingness to deviate from the line set by Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos, who ruled the former […]

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My Trial and The Law to Allow Money Laundering

I am due back in court on May 21 for exposing corruption. The corrupt former attorney general of the Republic, General João Maria de Sousa, is the plaintiff. He has failed to appear in court for the past two months. He even demanded that the trial be moved from the courtroom to the Office of the Attorney General, claiming immunity and privileges. But on April 25, he fled to Portugal and became, for the third time, a runaway plaintiff. There is a great irony in this trial that exposes the farcical anti-corruption discourse of President João Lourenço. On May 17, his ruling MPLA, in power for the past 42 years, passed the Law for the Repatriation of Capital. This new law might as well be aptly named the Law on Money Laundering, for that is what it is. According to this law, those who have siphoned off funds from the […]

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Behind the Smoke Screen: An Authoritarian New President

After the 2017 elections, the hopes ordinary Angolans placed on President João Lourenço were so high that many regarded him as a gift from God. Next September, his predecessor, José Eduardo dos Santos, will finally step down from the leadership of the ruling MPLA, after 39 years. The combined imperial powers of the country’s presidency and of the MPLA will make João Lourenço the absolute ruler of Angola, and it does not bode well for the country. The political partisanship of the army and the militarization of justice are two troubling trends seen since Lourenço took office. Both need to be addressed urgently before he gets comfortable with absolute power. Initially, President Lourenço enjoyed a surge of popularity thanks to a strong anti-corruption stance. He fired his predecessor’s children from key positions, and ditched some other rotten apples. He also allowed for some other senior officials to be publicly named […]

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Another Day in Court

Today I returned to court. The judge was in no mood for jokes, berating me for my public criticism of what was decided in the previous session. Judge Josina Ferreira Falcão ruled today against the request made last week by the plaintiff, former attorney general João Maria de Sousa. At the 11th hour, General Maria de Sousa’s counsel requested another postponement because his client had to travel to Portugal. On April 16, attorney João Pedro cited special privileges and immunity to justify General Maria de Sousa’s no-show in court. He further requested that the proceedings be moved to the Office of the Attorney General. The judged ruled in favor of the requests. However, last Friday afternoon, the court called to inform me that General Maria de Sousa had requested another postponement. Then, on Monday afternoon, the court notified me that the trial would proceed the following morning at Luanda’s Provincial […]

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The Runaway Plaintiff Making a Mockery of Justice in Angola

In my professional career, I stood trial three times due to my exposés on the powerful elite in Angola. The first time, the plaintiffs were the President and the Attorney General (AG). The second time, I took on eight generals in a bundle as the plaintiffs. Now, in a repetition of the circumstances of that first trial, the plaintiffs are once again that former president and his AG. Each of these trials takes place in an alternative reality in which fiction trumps fact: as though drawing attention to their behavior is more offensive than the offenses themselves. Now, for the third time as of April 16, 2018, Luanda Provincial Court has a runaway plaintiff making a mockery of justice. Judge Josina Ferreira Falcão decided that the date of the trial must be moved to April 24, and the location to the Office of the Attorney General (AG) of the Republic, […]

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Angola’s Attorney General “Sorry for Mistake” in Accusing Army Chief

Recently, the office of the Attorney General publicly named the Chief of Staff of the Angolan Armed Forces, General Geraldo Sachipengo Nunda, a formal suspect for criminal association.  More specifically, General Nunda was implicated in a US $50 billion scam led by a Thai businessman.  However, the Attorney General later apologized for the “mistake”.  The bungle has deeply troubled the Army and the judiciary, and has cast a shadow on President Lourenço’s anti-corruption drive.   When General Hélder Fernando Pitta Grós was appointed to the office of Attorney General of the Republic by Angola’s new President, João Lourenço, in December 2017, public opinion was divided. On the one hand, there was disappointment that yet again a military figure would occupy what should be a civilian position. On the other, there was optimism that, after ten years under the jackboot of the truculent and controversial Dos Santos-appointee, General João Maria de Sousa, the country’s […]

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Angola’s J-Lo Talks the Talk, Doesn’t Walk the Walk

On being sworn in as President of Angola last September, João Lourenço vowed he would crack down on the rampant corruption that flourished under his predecessor, José Eduardo dos Santos. He has, indeed, taken some steps towards honouring that promise. But in reality, those in power continue to benefit from self-awarded perks, favouritism and influence peddling while ignoring conflicts of interest. But is it all just a distraction? On February 12th, Finance Minister Archer Mangueira ordered the sale of five light aircraft owned by the Angolan state: three Beechcraft 1900s and two Twin Otters, as per his ministerial despatch 47/18. It orders the National Director of State Patrimony, Mr Valentim Joaquim Manuel, to draw up contracts for the sale of the aircraft with SJL-Aeronautica, EAPA and Air Jet. Imagine our surprise then to find out that SJL-Aeronautica was set up in 2010 by General Sequeira João Lourenço, the current President’s […]

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Ex-President dos Santos and His Son’s Billion-Dollar Scam

Before agreeing to step aside after 38 years in power, Angola’s former President, José Eduardo dos Santos, made sure he obtained guarantees of permanent immunity from prosecution for any crimes committed during his time in office. For Angola’s ruling party MPLA and lawmakers, it was a pragmatic necessity: how else could Dos Santos be persuaded to step aside? The man had an international reputation as one of Africa’s most zealous kleptocrats, using his position to enrich himself and his extended family. Six months on, however, a complex international investigation into an attempted US $1.5 billion fraud involving his son José Filomeno dos Santos “Zenú” has put Angolans openly discussing whether the Dos Santos family en masse should have those immunity guarantees removed. His son is firmly in the sights of criminal investigators who have documentary evidence that it was his father who oversaw the attempted scam.   The Weakest Link […]

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Valter Filipe and José Filomeno dos Santos indicted

José Filomeno dos Santos (son of former presidente José Eduardo dos Santos, known as Zenú), and the former governor of the National Bank of Angola, Valter Filipe, were indicted two weeks ago by the Attorney General’s Office for their involvement in the 500-million-dollar fraud. This refers to the transfer last September of 500 million dollars from the National Bank of Angola to an account with Crédit Suisse in London as a guarantee for a supposed funding of 30 billion dollars. In fact, as already investigated by Maka Angola early in January the operation would turn out to be a fraud against the Angolan State that was carried out by José Filomeno dos Santos. To carry it out, he used his dummy company, Mais Financial Services. London’s financial authorities suspected the fraud and blocked the funds in London. The referred transfer led to the resignation, on October 27, of the then […]

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