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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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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Sonangol’s Billion-Dollar Headache

Evidence has reached Maka Angola that Sonangol’s debts to major oil corporations are far in excess of the US $300 million  owed to Chevron as reported last month. Faced with a Sonangol news release that noted the Chevron monies were “under review” prior to payment, other foreign creditors have grown anxious about the multi-million sums they too are owed. Maka Angola has been supplied with figures showing unpaid cash calls to three other oil majors operating in the Angolan oilfields. They reveal that as of October 2016, Sonangol owed its creditors at over one billion US dollars. To date, Sonangol has only effected payments to companies owned by associates of President José Eduardo dos Santos and his daughter, Isabel dos Santos, the current Sonangol President. President dos Santos sacked the previous Sonangol board and installed his daughter back in June, in a move that shocked the global oil industry given […]

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Oil & Money: Sonangol’s Extravagant Conference in London

Some of the most powerful players in the global oil and gas industry will be meeting in London on October 18-19, for the Oil & Money annual conference. Hosted jointly by the New York Times and Energy Intelligence, the conference is described as a “must attend” – a gathering of “over 450 of the most influential senior decision-makers from the industry, along with government ministers and representatives, financiers and bankers, consultants and legal experts.” The conference agenda boasts of hours of “effective network opportunities…in a crowd large enough to be powerful, small enough to be intimate.” Tickets for the conference cost £2,490 (544,000 Kz), not including attendance at the Petroleum Executive of the Year Dinner which will set you back an extra £525 (115,000 Kz). Who are the sponsors of this lavish affair? The list of donors includes big-hitters like Chevron, ExxonMobil and Dow Chemical but also a host of […]

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The Chevron Ultimatum: Sonangol Has One Week to Save Itself

New management at the Angolan National Oil Company Sonangol has engineered a situation which now threatens the very survival of the company. Since June this year, when Angola’s President José Eduardo dos Santos installed his daughter Isabel dos Santos to chair the board, Sonangol has repeatedly failed to honour its promises to pay some US $300 million owed to the US multinational oil giant Chevron. The sum relates to production costs for the lucrative Block 0 in Angola’s offshore oilfields, which is 40 percent owned by Sonangol and 39.2 percent owned by Chevron. Sources in Houston have told Maka Angola that the US company has exhausted all options for finding an amicable solution, with no reciprocity from Isabel dos Santos’s board. The result is that Chevron Angola’s Director-General John Baltz has now given the Sonangol board an ultimatum: they have one week to come up with a payment plan or […]

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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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Chevron’s Misplaced Endorsement of Nepotism in Angola

What must Chevron’s CEO John Watson be thinking as he sits in his office in San Ramon, California and ponders the future of his Angolan subsidiary, the Cabinda Gulf Oil Company Ltd (Cabgoc)? How much longer does he estimate that he needs to keep on the good side of José Eduardo dos Santos’s corrupt and kleptocratic MPLA government to ensure Cabgoc can continue to operate?  Is he hedging his bets?  Or is he staking Chevron’s African corporate future on the faint chance that the Dos Santos family and their acolytes will not be brought to justice for their crimes? While oil industry analysts around the globe were divided about the merit of the President’s nepotistic appointment of his daughter Isabel to head the restructured Angolan state oil company, Sonangol,  Watson’s man in Angola, the Cabgoc director John Baltz, was telling a US-Angola Chamber of Commerce conference that he was “optimistic” […]

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Supersonic Nepotism: Illegalities at the Speed of Light

Angola’s President, José Eduardo dos Santos, has just appointed his daughter Isabel dos Santos as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the state oil giant, Sonangol.  He had already appointed her half-brother, José Filomeno dos Santos, back in 2012 as Chairman of the Board of the Angolan Sovereign Wealth Fund.  This means that the country’s sovereign fund and the state’s main source of income are now both in the hands of children of the President. In plain English, this is the very dictionary definition of nepotism: ‘the practice among those with power or influence of favouring relatives or friends, especially by giving them top jobs’.  No doubt there will be many analyses and critiques of Angola’s particular brand of nepotism but from the strictly legal point of view there is one indisputable conclusion to be drawn:  President dos Santos’s actions are unconstitutional and illegal. Unconstitutional and illegal The Angolan […]

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Freedom of Expression: a Crime against the State Security in Angola

In the oil-rich enclave of Cabinda, in the northernmost part of Angola, three individuals share a prison cell, since March 14, charged with crimes against the state security and sedition, for a protest against bad governance and human rights abuses, which never took place.  Their arrests and the charges leveled against them,  are what illustrate the sophistication of the authoritarian rule in Angola. Members of the state security arrested Marcos Mavungo, a university lecturer and oil worker for Chevron, as soon as he exited the Catholic Church where he attended morning mass at 7h00. He was, in fact, the lead proponent of the protest.  The local government swiftly prohibited holding the protest the moment it was notified by the organizers several days before. The demonstration was supposed to be held in the afternoon but the ban, and the massive deployment of police officers in the small urban district of Cabinda […]

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Crisis, What Crisis in Angola?

As Angola’s economic crisis deepens, the country’s president has given priority to the construction of a war memorial at an estimated cost of US $72 million, and a further US $73 million going to a phantom category of “non-specific religious affairs and services”.  These projects fall under the Office of Special Works of the Presidency of the Republic. Both expenditures are part of the revised 2015 budget, passed by the National Assembly on March 20, which was slashed by 25 percent (over US $17 billion) – including cuts in the salaries of civil servants. Despite the reduction of the budget due to the fall in oil prices, the president’s  set of priorities are baffling. Oil accounts for approximately 95 percent of Angola’s total exports, and its economy is mono-dependent on this commodity. For instance, the largest state-funded religious project, the construction of the Sanctuary of Muxima for the Catholic Church, […]

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