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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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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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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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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Sonangol on the Brink

Putting the President’s daughter in charge of Angola’s national oil company has been such a ‘good move’ that the company is now reported to be on the brink of bankruptcy. The ‘genius’ businesswoman and her cabal of Portuguese consultants have succeeded only in a level of mismanagement greater than ever before. And so it has come to pass that the state monopoly that controls Angola’s main source of income is now reduced to the role of beggar. Maka Angola is reliably informed that on May 17 Isabel dos Santos went to see the Finance Minister, Archer Mangueira, to request an injection of three billion dollars (!!) to rescue Sonangol from imminent bankruptcy. A source close to the Portuguese consultancy firm which has been the de facto administrator of Sonangol on behalf of Isabel dos Santos, told Maka Angola that the Minister had to inform the President of the Sonangol Board […]

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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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Dams for the Damned

When China and Angola signed a US $4.5 billion financing agreement last year to fund the construction of a dam and hydro-electric power station at Caculo Cabaça in Kwanza-Norte province, did the Chinese realize this project would be for the benefit of the Angolan President’s daughter? The loan from the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), is meant to pay for the services of the consortium selected to build the hydro-electric dam. But the backstory reveals, yet again, how President José Eduardo dos Santos uses his presidential decrees and orders to enrich his own family. Evidence supplied to Maka Angola shows that Isabel dos Santos will be a major beneficiary of the deal signed on her daddy’s behalf by Finance Minister Archer Mangueira, with all concerned apparently unaware of procedures required by law (and followed by the rest of the world) to obtain tenders for major publics works projects. […]

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Isabel dos Santos and the Right of Reply

Isabel dos Santos, self-described ‘African billionaire businesswoman’ and head of the Angolan national oil company, Sonangol, (appointed by her father, the President of Angola, José Eduardo dos Santos) was clearly rattled by the report published here on Maka Angola last week, entitled ‘Sonangol’s Slush Fund Salaries’ and has sent an official response. Maka Angola is delighted to afford the Sonangol President the right of reply. Sonangol’s ‘Official Reaction’ states (without offering proof) that the report was incorrect. And yet, instead of supplying alternative data, the response serves to confirm the inside information supplied to Maka Angola. (1) Sonangol’s whistleblowers reported elevated salaries for the board. And outrageous expenses and consultancy fees for a cabal of Portuguese nationals, effected overseas to avoid paying Angolan tax. The President’s daughter confirms that fees for the board of directors were raised to keep pace with inflation – in effect at the very least a […]

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Sonangol’s Slush-Fund Salary Payments

Concerns over the mal-administration of the Angolan oil giant, Sonangol, continue to multiply, as the country’s prime source of foreign income haemorrhages millions of dollars on foreign (mainly Portuguese) ‘consultants’ close to the President’s daughter while defaulting on essential payments. Isabel dos Santos, appointed by her father to run Sonangol last June, maintains the PR fiction that her objectives are to “raise transparency” and “improve management practise” at the state-owned petroleum giant. Why then does the lady who likes to call herself “Africa’s first female billionaire” insist on secrecy over the remuneration of her board and the more than 60 Portuguese consultants she has hired? And why are these foreign consultants working inside Angola on tourist visas? Insiders say Isabel’s board and administration are not paid according to the agreed salary scale at Sonangol and so are not on the official payroll. Instead, their elevated payments come directly from a […]

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