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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The Half-a-Billion-Dollar Scam of Espírito Santo Bank in Angola

In the plunder that has been carried out in Angola, little has been said about the extraordinary role of Portuguese facilitators – especially bank executives, lawyers and intermediaries – in setting up related operations. Little is also said about the extremely harmful role they play in Angola, while pretending to be above reproach. Maka Angola brings to light the US $518.5 million operation orchestrated in 2013 by José Fernando Faria de Bastos, a Portuguese lawyer living in Angola, and Rui Guerra, a Portuguese citizen and then-CEO of Banco Espírito Santo Angola (BESA). Let us start on June 28, 2013. On that day, BESA carried out five credit operations to five shell companies totalling US $379 million. This operation financed the purchase of assets of Espírito Santo Commerce (Escom), 66 percent owned by the Espírito Santo Group (GES) of Portugal, and 30 percent by the Portuguese-Angolan citizen Hélder Bataglia. An addendum […]

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A London Law Firm Won’t Stop Us Exposing Those Who Swindle Angola

My job is to investigate and expose human rights abuses and large-scale corruption in Angola. It’s not just my job – I have dedicated my life to this fight for justice in my native land. Inevitably this makes me a target for harassment by the current regime and the judicial system it controls, such as the Criminal Investigation Service (Serviço de Investigação Criminal – SIC) and the Office of Attorney-General of the Republic (Procuradoria-Geral da República – PGR). These minor irritations are part and parcel of the kind of work done by social justice activists the world over. Abroad, in Western democracies such as Portugal, people are often surprised that the Angolan government, which has been repeatedly branded as a dictatorship, doesn’t use violence to the same extent as other dictatorial regimes to silence critics. Perhaps they are unaware that extrajudicial execution is a commonplace event in Angola. I am […]

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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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Incompetence and Corruption Sinks Angola’s Development Bank

Angola’s state-owned banks, businesses and investment funds are all reportedly in trouble: either loss-making or on the brink of bankruptcy. The state oil giant, Sonangol, is floundering amid unpaid debts amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars; the crisis at the Credit and Savings Bank (the BPC, Banco de Poupança e Crédito) has led to a clean sweep of the board; and far from accumulating interest, the Angolan Sovereign Fund is losing hundreds of millions. The common denominator to their misfortunes is – according to the government – the disastrous plunge in oil prices. Not so, say economic analysts in Angolan and beyond. They say the drop in the price of oil simply uncovered factors that would send any business anywhere to the wall. The interruption to the flow of petrodollars made a continued cover-up of endemic corruption and incompetence impossible. All of a sudden their clandestine existence was revealed, […]

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Banco Espírito Santo Angola’s Toxic Loans to the Elite

Banco Espírito Santo Angola (BESA) is faced with serious financial problems caused by bad loans to the tune of US$6.5 billion including US$1.5 billion in interest, Maka Angola has learnt from reliable sources. During Álvaro Sobrinho’s tenure as chairman of the bank’s executive committee (2002-2013), BESA took to granting astronomical loans, mostly to well-known figures in the Angolan regime, including several members of the ruling People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) Politburo. Since 2013 the chairman of BESA’s board is an MPLA Politburo member, António Paulo Kassoma, who has served as prime minister and speaker of the National Assembly. According to information obtained by Maka Angola, the bank had made loans totalling nearly US$200 million with Álvaro Sobrinho as the main beneficiary. The bank now wants to recoup this loan. Eugénio Neto “Geny Neto”, the vice chairman of Espírito Santo Commerce (Escom) in Angola, has been named as […]

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Trafigura and the Angolan Presidential Mafia

In two years of operations in Angola, Pumangol has become a leading player in the marketing of Angolan oil, as well as in the distribution of oil products in the country. This company is a joint venture between multinational Puma Energy, a subsidiary of Swiss based company Trafigura, and its Angolan counterpart Cochan. In August 2010, President José Eduardo dos Santos authorized a total of five investment contracts worth US$ 931 million, by multinational Puma Energy and its Angolan partner Cochan. In  a country ranked among the 15 worst in the world to do business, the rapid success of Trafigura and its subsidiary Pumangol  is, by its own right, a case study and one for an in-depth investigation into its dealings with the presidential inner circle. The Geneva-based company benefits of a swap contract with Sonangol. Trafigura receives Angolan crude oil (in unknown quantities) in exchange for delivering all petroleum […]

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