Angola billionaire Isobel dos Santos wants assets unfrozen

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Media captionAfrica’s richest woman has denied allegations that she built her fortune by exploiting her country

The billionaire daughter of Angola’s former president is calling for her assets in the country and Portugal to be unfrozen.

Isabel dos Santos says there is evidence the state, the Luanda Civil Court and Supreme Court colluded against her using fabricated evidence.

She says this included a forged passport in her name bearing the signature of late martial arts expert Bruce Lee.

The courts have not commented.

Ms Dos Santos is reported to be Africa’s richest woman, with a fortune of some $2bn (£1.6bn).

She was controversially appointed head of the state oil firm Sonangol in June 2016 by her father, former President José Eduardo dos Santos. She was sacked from the post in 2017 by her father’s successor, President João Lourenço.

In January, prosecutors in Angola accused her, and her associates, of mismanaging and embezzling $1bn from Sonangol. Her assets in Angola and in Portugal were subsequently frozen.

Ms Dos Santos has denied all allegations of wrongdoing.

A photo has been circulated by Ms Dos Santos’s PR team of the forged passport she says was used in court. The image has also been published on her Twitter account:

What is Dos Santos accused of?

An investigation into Ms Dos Santos was opened after her successor at Sonangol, Carlos Saturnino, alerted authorities to alleged irregular money transfers.

Then in December 2019, an Angolan court ordered the freezing of Ms Dos Santos’ Angolan bank accounts and the seizure of her stake in local companies, including telecoms giant Unitel and bank Fomento de Angola (BFA). Also subject to the same order were her husband Sindika Dokolo, and her mananger Mário Filipe Moreira Leite da Silva who is also the former Banco de Fomento Angola (BFA).

Ms Dos Santos condemned it at the time as a “politically motivated attack”. In a statement she added that “there were no lawyers from my side present, nor the directors of my companies”.

A month later, more than 700,000 leaked documents revealed how Isabel dos Santos and her husband were allowed to buy valuable state assets in a series of suspicious deals.

Dubbed the Luanda Leaks, they were obtained by the Platform to Protect Whistle-blowers in Africa and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

Ms Dos Santos dismissed the report, saying on Twitter that it was “based on fake documents and false information, it is a coordinated political attack in coordinations with the ‘Angolan Government’. 715 thousand documents read? Who believes that? #icij #lies”.

The following week, Angola’s Attorney General Hélder Pitta Grós announced that Ms Dos Santos was accused of mismanaging and embezzling $1bn (£810m) during her time as chairwoman of Sonangol.

Attorney General Pitta Grós told a news conference on 22 January that she was being provisionally charged with “money laundering, influence peddling, harmful management…[and] forgery of documents, among other economic crimes”.

Five other people were named as suspects in the case, one of whom was Nuno Ribeiro da Cunha, who managed Sonangol’s account at the small Portuguese bank EuroBic.

He was found dead on the same day at his house in Lisbon, Portuguese media said quoting a police source. The source said “everything” suggested that the death of Mr Ribeiro da Cunha was suicide.

Who is Isabel dos Santos?

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  • Eldest daughter of ex-President José Eduardo dos Santos
  • Married to Congolese art collector and businessman Sindika Dokolo
  • Educated in the UK, where she currently lives
  • Reported to be Africa’s richest woman, with a fortune of some $2bn
  • Has stakes in oil and mobile phone companies and banks, mostly in Angola and Portugal

Source: Forbes magazine and others

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