A Cautionary Tale for Foreign Investors in Angola

It may have looked like ‘easy pickings’. The property market in Angola was booming: extreme shortages of decent housing in the face of overwhelming demand (especially in the capital, Luanda) meant that hotel rates and rents had soared to become the highest of any city in the world. For non-Angolans with capital to invest, offers of bonds and equity in joint-venture companies promising a multi-million dollar portfolio of properties with guaranteed monthly income, seemed a sure-fire prospect. But as with any investment that offers a high return, there is often high risk. And nowhere more so than when dealing with the kleptocracy that ruled Angola for four decades. As ongoing lawsuits in both Angola and the USA have shown, it is all too easy for well-connected Angolans to swindle their foreign partners, and get away with it. Just ask Africa Growth Corporation (known by its acronyms AGC* or AFCO) (*See […]

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Isabel dos Santos: The Fall of Africa’s Richest Woman

Just think for a minute. In a two-year span, a father gave his daughter, among several contracts, four that were worth over US $22 billion. The father is then President José Eduardo dos Santos, and the daughter is Isabel, Africa’s richest woman. These were the golden days of the presidential family’s capture of Angola. Period. In the past month, with a stroke of a pen, General João Lourenço has annulled the four egregious contracts. The former “princess” is crying foul, and is threatening to sue the Angolan state however, the state is calling out her bluff. Her fortune is about to tumble like a house of cards, just as her father’s power fell flat once he left office after 38 years. Through her father’s presidential decrees, Isabel built her fortune. Now, ironically, the man her father personally chose to replace him is first and foremost taking away the family’s fortunes […]

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Flying in the Face of Justice

Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais, the Swiss-Angolan ‘businessman’ who is accused of masterminding a conspiracy to defraud the Angolan Republic of untold millions of dollars, is enjoying life as a free man in Angola, despite being the subject of police investigations and criminal and civil lawsuits in several countries. Why, when he faces such serious criminal and civil charges in connection with his (mis)management of US $3 billion of the Angolan sovereign wealth fund and alleged fraud and money-laundering, is Mr. Bastos de Morais at liberty to continue to run the Banco Kwanza Invest (BKI) and the controversial project to build and run the Caio deep sea port project in Cabinda province? He is said to have amassed an enormous fortune largely thanks to his association with one of the sons of former Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos: José Filomeno, nicknamed Zenú. In one of his many acts of outright […]

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The Angolan Sovereign Fund and the Arch-Fraudster

When historians come to write the unexpurgated story of corruption in Angola, the chapter on how dual Swiss-Angolan national Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais enriched himself from the Angolan Sovereign Fund is sure to be a page-turner. Bastos de Morais is the silent partner of the former Sovereign Fund’s chairman, José Filomeno dos Santos (Zenú), the hitherto-untouchable son of former President José Eduardo dos Santos who turned Angola into a kleptocracy during 38 years in power. The US $5 billion Sovereign Fund was created to stimulate economic diversity – a hedge against the future when Angola’s rich oil reserves run out. Zenú and his buddy Jean-Claude are alleged to have treated the Sovereign Fund as their personal piggy bank and both face charges of fraud and money-laundering. Zenú’s father used also set up the Angolan Venture Capital Fund (in Portuguese: Fundo Activo de Capital de Risco Angolano, FACRA) in 2012. Under […]

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Prosecuting the Messenger, Absolving the Corrupt

Angola’s public prosecutor, Pedro Pederneira, calls for my conviction for the crimes of insulting a public authority and speaking against the state security (June 15). He wants me in jail for writing that former President José Eduardo dos Santos protected the corrupt. This is the crime against the state security. The public prosecution office recently charged Dos Santos’ son, José Filomeno dos Santos, and his accomplices for the looting of US $500 million from Angola’s central bank. The looting had been authorized by the father weeks before he stepped down in September last year. Last January, I was the very first to expose the whole scam at home. So, where is the crime against the state security? I supplied the court with plenty of evidence on past cases in which Mr. Dos Santos engaged and protected the corrupt, and the then-attorney general never replied to many of my formal complaints […]

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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 As […]

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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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Angolan Central Bank US $500 Million Swindle Foiled

The latest episode in the long-running saga of the alleged plunder of Angola’s public coffers has just come to light. Thanks to the diligence of British financial watchdogs and a change of regime in Angola, what is alleged to have been an attempt by the former President’s son to divert US $500 million, with his father’s blessing, looks to have been halted at the eleventh hour. Full details of the alleged fraud have yet to be revealed, but information confirmed by separate sources indicates that the new Angolan President João Lourenço has taken steps to reclaim the funds which have been frozen pending the outcome of an international investigation. A spokesman for the UK’s National Crime Agency told us: “We can confirm that the NCA’s International Corruption Unit is investigating a case of potential fraud against the Angolan government.” The NCA spokesman said they could not provide any further details […]

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A New Angolan President

On September 21 we will have a new president, after 38 years with José Eduardo dos Santos. The National Electoral Commission has named João Lourenço president-elect, without legally validating the votes in 15 of the 18 provinces. The MPLA, already in power for 42 years will continue to rule for a further five-year term. Anyone who things that the law is worth when MPLA’s leaders’ interests are at stake, is mistaken. It is worth taking a look back at the history of presidential power in Angola and its popular legitimacy. In 1975, Agostinho Neto became president through the unilateral declaration of independence, after expelling the other liberation movements, FNLA (led by Holden Roberto) and UNITA (led by Jonas Savimbi), from Luanda. The three movements had formed a transitional government, and the process of declaring independence ought to have happened only after elections were held. Instead, the most cunning and strategic […]

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