Angola: When the Wolves can Dance with the Goats

This is an edited version of the presentation made at the Conference: A Celebration of Mandela’s Legacy and a Reflection on Democracy and Good Governance in Africa.   I am honored to return to the European Parliament as a guest of the Socialists and Democrats Group, for Africa Week. This meeting is special – it coincides with the centenary of the birth of one of Africa’s most celebrated leaders, Nelson Mandela. So it is a fitting day on which we take the opportunity to pay homage to his wise legacy and share our views on democracy and good governance. In Africa, what counts as democracy and good governance? The definition of these two concepts has spawned many political arguments – not to mention an entire industry of scholarship. In homage to Mandela, and with regard to the relationship between rulers and the ruled on the African continent, allow me to […]

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Angola’s ‘Money Pit’ Currency Museum

The Banco Nacional de Angola (BNA), the country’s central bank, is housed in one of the prettiest colonial buildings that the capital city has to offer: a confection of Portuguese colonial construction in pink and white, consisting of two colonnaded wings which meet at a circular tower topped by a distinctive red-tiled cupola. The ‘wedding cake’, completed in 1956, occupies an entire block of Luanda’s Marginal, the gently-curving and tree-lined avenue which runs the length of the picturesque bay. Buried in the paved pedestrian square alongside the bank, some meters beneath an elaborate winged structure, is one of the city’s lesser known museums: the subterranean ‘Museu da Moeda’ (the Currency Museum). Opened in 2016, it may only have a single below-ground exhibition room with exhibits of dubious worth but this museum is worthy of a little more attention than it has received so far. The Currency Museum project, which began […]

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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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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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