An exclusive five-part series that looks into the campaign to retrieve Angola's stolen money at a time when the country's economy is suffering from a massive restructuring programme, record low oil prices and the impact of COVID-19.
Tales of illicit transfers from state companies, inflated procurement contracts and land grabs in the capital – as documented by government prosecutors and the Luanda Leaks data hack – are the tip of a gargantuan iceberg according to commercial lawyers familiar with some of the biggest transactions over the past decade.
More deals may surface
Many more suspect deals will be exposed in the coming months with Portugal’s judicial police planning raids on local companies suspected of malfeasance.
“The 100 million dollars transfer – widely reported in the media – is a minor part of what happened during the Sonangol period under Isabel Dos Santos,” a business executive told us. “A lot more is going to come out – the worst is yet to happen. They’ll raid anybody and any company that had anything to do with Isabel Dos Santos,” he added.
A key issue will be to what extent international oil companies in Angola may be implicated. The central question is how much Angola earns from its oil exports, how much tax the oil companies pay and who negotiates those payments and with what transparency.
There will be a renewed spotlight on the ethical procedures and relationships they have with their lawyers, auditors and accountants.
“…benfitted enormously from the millions syphoned”
Many of Angola’s trading partners have questions to answer. “Portugal wasn’t the country that helped corrupt Angola the most – that prize goes to China,” said a legal source. “And take the UK – it has benefitted enormously from the millions syphoned out of Angola. Just look at the multi-million pound properties Isabel owns there”.
Dos Santos’s husband Sindika Dokolo obtained a stake in the Geneva-based firm De Grisogono, making diamond jewellery for the stars, in what was meant to be an equal partnership with Angola’s state diamond firm Sodiam.
But it has emerged that Sodiam paid the lion’s share, with Dokolo making a negligible contribution. De Grisogono, which had six stores in the United States, filed for bankruptcy in late January this year, which may trigger further investigations over its finances.
Dos Santos and Portugal’s Galp
Questions are being asked about the Dos Santos clan’s 6% indirect stake in Portugal’s oil firm Galp. They paid $75m for that stake, which was worth well over $700m in February, with a loan from Sonangol. Officials at Galp – the second biggest company on the Lisbon stock exchange with operations in Angola, Brazil and Mozambique – say it is a matter for Sonangol to sort out.
Associates of Isabel, whose mother Tatiana was born in the Soviet Union, deny media reports that she now travels on a Russian passport or has plans to relocate to Moscow.
But anti-corruption campaigners are scrutinising business operations by Tatiana and Isabel with Russian companies – even if their inquiries are likely to hit a brick wall in Moscow.
This is part 4 of a 5-part series.
For the complete series, click here.
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