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Angola exposé: International implications

In depth
This article is part of the dossier: Angola: on the trail of stolen billions

By Patrick Smith, Zoe Eisenstein
Posted on Friday, 15 May 2020 20:51, updated on Wednesday, 17 June 2020 14:54

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In this fourth of a five-part series on Angola's campaign to find its stolen funds, we explore the many companies, both in Angola and abroad, that may be implicated in the missing billions.

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.

READ MORE Angola: Where did all the money go? Part 1, a family feast

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”.

READ MORE Angola is collateral damage of coronavirus hit on oil, China

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.

Isabel dos Santos and her husband Sindika Dokolo in Porto, Portugal on March 5, 2015 (AP Photo/Paulo Duarte)

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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