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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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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Stealing with Presidential Decrees

When Angola’s President decreed in 2012 that the north-western enclave of Cabinda should have a deep-water port, it was heralded as a private sector deal that wouldn’t cost the Angolan state a single cent. The estimated US $540 million construction costs would be funded by private investors and banks. For once, there was no Angolan public sector involvement contemplated. That proved to be a chimera. In fact, the entire Caio Port (Porto de Caio) concept seems to have been a vanity project involving the President’s son, José Filomeno dos Santos known as Zenú and his very close friend and financial mentor, Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais. And sadly, the project is bleeding millions upon millions of dollars from the Angolan Sovereign Wealth Fund controlled by Zenú. A very ‘private’ port The proposal for Cabinda’s deep water port at Caio was first announced in a 2012 presidential decree as a wholly private-sector […]

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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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When Conflicts of Interest Go Unpunished

Why does the Angolan President’s Minister of State and Head of the Intelligence Bureau have a side job as a managing director in Macau, China, in direct contravention of the Angolan Constitution which specifically prohibits such conflict of interest? Documentary proof sent to Maka Angola shows that General Manuel Hélder Vieira Dias Júnior “Kopelipa”, and his wife Luísa de Fátima Geovetty, set up a private company named Baía Consulting Limited based on the 7th floor of the Lun Pong Building at No. 763 Avenida da Praia Grande, in Macau on January 26 this year. The couple are registered as equal partners in the business and also as managers. On the very same day that the company was registered, the General and his wife, issued a power of attorney to the Macau-based lawyer, Barry Shu Mun Cheong, who also happens to own the office where Baía is based. This power of […]

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Isabel Spells Danger for Angolan Banks

When the United States warns of the risks of handing control of Angola’s banks to politically exposed people (i.e. President José Eduardo dos Santos, his family members, and the Generals who back him), this is not an idle warning. It’s because the USA know the President is planning to transfer control over the BFA (Banco de Fomento Angola) to his daughter, Isabel, and that once he does so, the Presidential group’s control over almost the entire Angolan banking system will be in place. How so? According to African Business Magazine’s list of Africa’s Top 100 Banks in 2015, the five largest banks in Angola were: Banco Económico (BE – Economic Bank), Banco Angolano de Investimentos (BAI – Angolan Investment Bank), Banco de Poupança e Crédito (The Savings and Credit Bank), Banco de Fomento de Angola (BFA – Development Bank of Angola) and Banco BIC (BIC – The International Credit Bank). […]

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Angolan Oil Greases a Trio of Palms

At a time of prolonged economic crisis, Angola has an interesting way of prioritizing who gets first dibs on its dwindling supply of foreign exchange. Angola’s President José Eduardo dos Santos recently told the central committee of his ruling MPLA (People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola) party that the government had not received any contribution from Sonangol (the national oil company) since the beginning of the year due to the sharp decline in oil price. He added: “the income Sonangol does derive is barely enough to pay its own and the State debts.” Dos Santos admitted that this was causing a foreign exchange crisis for the National Bank of Angola, the BNA, which was only able to muster approximately US $300 million per month. That comes from receivables from foreign oil companies working in Angola, who are required to exchange their national currencies into Angolan kwanzas to pay in-country […]

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Sonangol’s Billion Dollar Headache

The task facing Angola’s state oil company, Sonangol, as it adjusts to lower revenues during the slump in oil prices, is complicated by a stratospheric debt burden which gives little room for manoeuvre.  And yet the new administration is unexpectedly making repayment of one private debt a top priority. In spite of multiple pressing issues (including the root-and-branch restructuring of Sonangol) repayment of this particular debt has been fast-tracked by Sonangol’s new CEO, the President’s daughter Isabel dos Santos.   A source close to the Sonangol board has told Maka Angola it’s the reason why Sonangol has been seeking a loan of US $800 million from a bank based in Egypt, offering as surety its shares in the Millenium BCP division of Portugal’s largest private bank, the Commercial Bank of Portugal (BCP). The urgent repayment?  A one billion US dollar debt owed to Trafigura. This is the joint venture between the […]

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Angolan Vice-President Vicente’s Illegal Business Role

Angolan Vice-President Manuel Vicente is facing a criminal complaint over business dealings that are allegedly contrary to Angolan laws that govern the private affairs of the highest government officials. The case, brought by journalist and human rights defender Rafael Marques de Morais, refers in particular to Vicente’s role in China Sonangol International Holding, a majority Chinese-owned private company. Marques presented the complaint to the Angolan Attorney General on Thursday, August 8. The complaint calls on the authorities to initiate impeachment proceedings against Vicente. It cites Article 138 of the Angolan Constitution, which states that positions of Ministers of State, Ministers, Secretaries of State and Deputy Ministers are incompatible with “any administrative functions, management or any corporate position in companies and other purposes of an economic nature.” The complainant told Maka Angola that Manuel Vicente’s involvement with Chinese interests at a time when he was already vice-president-elect would cause him to […]

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