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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Stealing from Angola’s Sovereign Fund Was This Easy

Angola’s national bank seems to have been looking the other way when the President’s son and his friend used a bank and several ‘shell’ companies to steal US $100 million, one of many schemes they put in place to loot Angola’s Sovereign Fund. As everyone now knows, then-President José Eduardo dos Santos put his son, José Filomeno dos Santos (Zenú) in charge of Angola’s Sovereign Fund. In turn, Zenú put his close friend and business associate, Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais, in charge of managing the Sovereign Fund monies. The two already face charges of theft and money-laundering in connection with an attempted $250 million dollar embezzlement from the Sovereign Fund. One by one, more instances of their criminal conspiracy to defraud the Angolan public purse continue to emerge. Three years ago, Maka Angola learned that the equivalent of USD $100 million had been transferred out of Angola’s Sovereign Fund on […]

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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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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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Sums Don’t Add up for Angolan Central Bank

Angola’s central bank, the Banco Nacional de Angola (BNA) has failed to produce its accounts for the second year running, with the current BNA Governor, José de Lima Massano, forced to issue a written explanation to the Angolan President. In so doing, Massano has brought to light a convoluted financial arrangement, sanctioned by one of his predecessors, in which the BNA unlawfully acted as guarantor for a US $200 million foreign loan for a private bank, the Banco de Negócios Internacional (BNI). Angola’s Banking Laws authorize the BNA to intervene to help a private bank only as a lender of last resort to inject liquidity during a temporary crisis, and only on condition that the private bank has sufficient collateral in non-liquid assets. The BNI case did not meet the criteria on any count. It is further alleged that the loan was obtained under false pretences, and that the BNI […]

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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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The Trial: The Plaintiff’s Confusing Complaints

Finally, on May 21, 2018, the plaintiff appeared in court, some three months after the scheduled start of the trial. The former attorney general of the Republic, General João Maria de Sousa (2007-2017), had one condition: The trial had to be held in camera during his testimony. It would no longer be in the office of the attorney general, as he initially petitioned. Judge Josina Falcão explained that it would be impossible to keep the plaintiff’s testimony a secret, because the two journalists on trial would reveal it to the public. She stressed that the General would have to sit on the witness stand like anyone else. No special chair for him. As he entered the courtroom, he told his security detail to take their seats. His lawyer signaled him to keep them out, and he obliged. He was in an uncomfortable position, his hands trembled throughout the proceedings. The […]

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