Repairing Angola’s Central Bank

In the wake of recent revelations of mismanagement and corruption at the Banco Nacional de Angola (BNA), its Governor, José de Lima Massano, took to the airwaves in an attempt to defend his reputation and that of the bank. It was all to no avail, because many high-ranking officials have taken to heart the new Angolan President’s strictures against corruption and are willing to blow the whistle, backing up their claims with documentary proof. It’s evidence that should prompt the Attorney-General’s office to open an investigation. Maka Angola has been given a copy of the contract signed in 2013 for the rehabilitation of the central bank’s historic main building, signed by Massano during his first stint at BNA governor. As with other projects (like the much-derided Currency Museum), he hired the Angolan subsidiary of the Portuguese construction firm Somague to do the work. Somague stands accused of routinely padding costs […]

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Angola: When the Wolves can Dance with the Goats

This is an edited version of the presentation made at the Conference: A Celebration of Mandela’s Legacy and a Reflection on Democracy and Good Governance in Africa.   I am honored to return to the European Parliament as a guest of the Socialists and Democrats Group, for Africa Week. This meeting is special – it coincides with the centenary of the birth of one of Africa’s most celebrated leaders, Nelson Mandela. So it is a fitting day on which we take the opportunity to pay homage to his wise legacy and share our views on democracy and good governance. In Africa, what counts as democracy and good governance? The definition of these two concepts has spawned many political arguments – not to mention an entire industry of scholarship. In homage to Mandela, and with regard to the relationship between rulers and the ruled on the African continent, allow me to […]

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Angola’s ‘Money Pit’ Currency Museum

The Banco Nacional de Angola (BNA), the country’s central bank, is housed in one of the prettiest colonial buildings that the capital city has to offer: a confection of Portuguese colonial construction in pink and white, consisting of two colonnaded wings which meet at a circular tower topped by a distinctive red-tiled cupola. The ‘wedding cake’, completed in 1956, occupies an entire block of Luanda’s Marginal, the gently-curving and tree-lined avenue which runs the length of the picturesque bay. Buried in the paved pedestrian square alongside the bank, some meters beneath an elaborate winged structure, is one of the city’s lesser known museums: the subterranean ‘Museu da Moeda’ (the Currency Museum). Opened in 2016, it may only have a single below-ground exhibition room with exhibits of dubious worth but this museum is worthy of a little more attention than it has received so far. The Currency Museum project, which began […]

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Angola’s Path to Justice: Prosecuting the Guilty and Recovering the Stolen Billions

The dramatic recent arrests of high-ranking figures linked to former Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos has gripped the public. Yet little or nothing has been revealed about the struggle to recover the billions of dollars stolen from the public purse during Dos Santos’s corrupt regime. Extensive whistleblower reports published by Maka Angola have led to numerous investigations and prosecutions across the globe to bring to justice all those who illicitly enriched themselves during the Dos Santos years. But efforts to repatriate the missing billions have been complicated by the tortuous schemes devised by the principals to obscure the money trail. One such example: Back in 2009, an Angolan company named Portmill Investimentos e Telecomunicações S.A. allegedly committed fraud in its acquisition of a majority shareholding in the Banco de Espírito Santo Angola (BESA). BESA was the Angolan subisdiary of one of Portugal’s oldest private banks, the Banco de Espírito […]

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Angolan Port Authority Seeks End to Sogester Contract

The Danish multinational giant, Maersk, stands accused of making obscene profits at the expense of Angolan dockworkers amid calls for the contract awarded to its subsidiary, Sogester, to be ripped up. The Port of Namibe says it is struggling to pay its workers because it is powerless to revoke a 2014 contract which gives 90% of income to the port’s commercial operator, Sogester, a joint partnership between the Maersk group’s APM Terminals and a company which is the commercial arm of Angola’s ruling MPLA party. According to the Port of Namibe board chairman, António Samuel, “it has been an enormous struggle to safeguard workers’ pay and keep going on the 10%”. The dockworkers’ union agrees – and says it is high time this contract was torn up. The port authority and union are hoping the government of President João Lourenço (elected in September 2017) will step in to review what […]

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Legal Jeopardy for the Angolan ‘Princess’

The woman who once styled herself as Africa’s first female billionaire, controlling a complex empire of companies registered around the world, is discovering that all those overseas registrations make her vulnerable to legal action in multiple jurisdictions. As reported extensively by Maka Angola over many years, evidence shows the Dos Santos family and associates customarily registered companies overseas (often in tax havens known for lax supervision) using them as vehicles for the sole purpose of transferring large sums of money between multiple companies owned or controlled by the Dos Santos cohort. International experts say such transactions between shell companies are typical of large-scale embezzlement and money-laundering. One particular financial manoeuvre involving nearly US $500 million transferred through a Dutch-registered subsidiary has now placed Isabel dos Santos in the position of having to defend herself against a lawsuit in the Netherlands in a case that has also been the subject of […]

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Swindling Angola’s Central Bank

Although to date Angola’s efforts have focused on severing ties to Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais’ management of the Sovereign Wealth Fund, his involvement in what is alleged to have been the systematic theft of money from the Angolan public purse goes further than the mismanagement of the Sovereign Fund. Up to now the government has remained totally silent about a further US $3 billion dollars that Bastos secured from Angola’s Central Bank (Banco Nacional de Angola – BNA). As with the Sovereign Fund monies, the BNA funds also found their way to the Northern Trust Bank in England, reportedly used as the hub for diverting funds obtained from Angola into Bastos’ Swiss-based Quantum Global Group. Maka Angola expanded its investigations after a whistleblower from the BNA entered into contact subject to guarantees of anonymity. The BNA official asserted that “these funds [the BNA’s US$3 billion] have been managed without accountability.” […]

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Temporary Reprieve, or Pyrrhic Victory?

Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais – an indicted swindler connected to the former kleptocratic regime in Angola, accused of the brazen theft of untold millions of dollars of public money – has obtained a temporary victory in his legal battles. An attempt by lawyers representing the Angolan government to prevent Bastos de Morais from continuing to access the US $5 billion dollar Angolan Sovereign Fund, was not upheld by the courts in London, UK due to their failure to produce the required documentation in time. The effect is to allow Bastos de Morais, who is already facing charges for embezzlement of hundreds of millions of dollars from the Sovereign Wealth Fund, to regain access to hundreds more. Blame for this procedural mishap is reputedly down to ineptitude by Angola’s new government, possibly related to the ruling party’s desire to protect the former President. The word in London is that Luanda is […]

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Calling the Kleptocrats to Account

After more than four decades of official silence, Angola’s dirty secrets are being swept from under the carpet. Officially-sanctioned news reports denouncing specific cases of corruption in high places have mushroomed in a matter of months. People once thought to be untouchable are under investigation or already face criminal charges. José Filomeno dos Santos (Zenú), and his business associate Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais have been charged with misappropriating $500 million US dollars from the $5 billion US dollar Angolan Sovereign Wealth Fund. The fate of the rest of the fund has yet to be determined. Zenú’s elder sister, Isabel dos Santos, is alleged to have built a billion-dollar business empire based on nepotism and ‘loans’ of public money that have never been repaid. The evidence now emerging confirms the endemic corruption that Maka Angola has been reporting for years. There is, of course, a common denominator in the scandals involving […]

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The Empress Has no Clothes

Isabel dos Santos is the woman who once boasted to Forbes magazine that she was Africa’s first female billionaire. Although Angolans knew she owed her fortune to nepotism and wholesale theft from the public purse, Isabel wove an image of herself as an astute global entrepreneur. But her reputation began to unravel along with her business empire after her father José Eduardo dos Santos stepped down as President of Angola last year. As President, Dos Santos had funnelled millions of dollars from the state oil company Sonangol to ‘loans’ to bankroll her businesses. Then, before leaving office, he installed Isabel as the head of Sonangol. The effect was catastrophic. The new President marshalled the evidence and ensured his own position was sufficiently secure before acting. First, Isabel was sacked as the head of Sonangol. Then she was removed, step by step, from each of the lucrative contracts or positions awarded […]

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