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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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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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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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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Lifelong Immunity from Prosecution for the President

It is right and proper that anyone who has served as head of state or government should be accorded due honors upon exiting the job. The peaceful transition of power is a cornerstone of democracy and those who have reached the pinnacle and who willingly step aside when their time is up, are rightfully guaranteed some special treatment for the rest of their days. It’s a mark of respect for their service. With the prospect of a voluntary exit for José Eduardo dos Santos, who has held power in Angola for an astonishing 37 years, few would be so churlish as to deny the man who likes to call himself “the Architect of Peace” the consolations of orderly retirement. What is customary around the world? No doubt his name will emblazon important civic works. Perhaps he is granted an annual pension and a security detail for life. Perhaps the state […]

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When You Can’t Shoot, Sue!

Recently, the Angolan ruling party MPLA proposed, in Parliament, that the outgoing President and Vice-President be given absolute immunity from prosecution for any crimes they committed while in office. Consequently, within days the regime has launched new indictments against whistle-blower and human rights defender, Rafael Marques de Morais. Rafael Marques de Morais is the fearless, award-winning editor of the online news site Maka Angola. It focuses on  investigating and publishing citizens’ complaints about the all-too-common cases of corruption, abuse of power and human rights violations in oil-rich Angola. He has been a thorn in the side of Angola’s President, José Eduardo dos Santos, who has amassed a multi-billion dollar fortune for himself, his family and his loyal supporters in the ruling MPLA party. Meanwhile, only permitting a trickle of the country’s oil wealth to be used for the benefit of the people he was supposed to serve. Outside Angola, the […]

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All the President’s Children

Are you suffering from corruption fatigue? Yes, it gets to us all. There is just so much of it. Everywhere. Shameless, unethical, immoral, illegal, self-serving behavior is rampant. From the USA to North Korea, it seems few countries are immune to the self-enriching predations of the “one-percenters”. So how should we react to the news that the jobless, student, twenty-something year-old child of an ageing African dictator threw down €500,000 on a charity bid just so he could be photographed alongside some Hollywood stars like Will Smith? Before you yawn and turn the page, consider this. While this pampered princeling was quaffing champagne at the AMFAR gala in Cannes, dozens of his fellow countrymen of all ages were dying unnecessarily for lack of the most basic medicine and medical equipment. That’s because his country’s oil wealth has been siphoned off year after year, leaving little in the state budget for […]

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The President’s State of Health: A State Secret?

It makes you wonder: just how bad is the Angolan President’s health? Things must be grim if the entire state apparatus zips their lips, leaving it to the big man’s tiny grandson (as quoted in a social media posting by his mother Tchizé dos Santos) to tell the world that “vovó” (his grandpa) is “living a normal life”, “watching the TV news” in Barcelona. Really? Is that the best the Dos Santos family’s highly-paid Public Relations firms can do? Is this the MPLA’s strategy for deflecting the growing national anxiety about the state of the man and the nation he has ruled for 37 years? If he’s well and living a normal life, then why is he doing so in Spain instead of at home running his government? The truth, or bits of it, have leaked from multiple sources. At the beginning of this month (May 2017) something happened to […]

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Constitutional Challenge to Angola’s New Media Laws

The main Angolan opposition party, UNITA, is launching a legal challenge to the MPLA government’s latest attempt to gag criticism of the regime. In a petition to the Constitutional Court, UNITA argues that specific clauses of the MPLA media law are simply unconstitutional and calls on the Court to issue a ruling to that effect. The Angolan Constitution, rewritten in 2010, affirms the right to freedom of expression under Article 44 stating explicitly “Freedom of the press is guaranteed, and cannot be subjected to any prior censorship of a political, ideological or artistic nature.” It goes on: “The state will ensure pluralism of expression and guarantee different ownership and editorial diversity in the media. UNITA argues that the Constitution does not contemplate the possibility of any law attempting to restrict the freedom of the press. The current legal set-up makes it impossible for any individual or organization other than a […]

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Portuguese Corruption Trial Snares Angola’s Vice President

The net is closing around Angola’s Vice-President, Manuel Vicente, the former CEO of the country’s oil giant Sonangol and a man long accused of being a conduit for the diversion of oil revenues into international business deals linked to the Angolan President, his family and close associates. He faces charges in connection with the alleged suborning of a Portuguese prosecutor. Orlando Figueira, in 2013 to set aside an investigation into money-laundering involving the purchase of a US $4 million luxury apartment in Lisbon. Both the prosecutor and Vicente’s lawyer, Paulo Blanco, have also been indicted on charges of violating court confidentiality regarding the investigation into the Angolan subsidiary (BESA) of the Banco de Espirito Santo (BES), which collapsed in 2014. If proven, then by suborning the prosecutor, the Angolans succeeded in interfering with the course of justice in Portugal to prevent any prosecution in the BESA investigation which, by unravelling […]

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