'Political persecution'

Angola: Unitel targets Isabel dos Santos in London court

By Estelle Maussion

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Posted on May 29, 2023 10:29

 Isabel Dos Santos in April 2020 ©Facebook/Isabel Dos Santos.
Isabel Dos Santos in April 2020 ©Facebook/Isabel Dos Santos.

Unitel, once run by Isabel dos Santos, the daughter of late Angolan president José Eduardo dos Santos, is demanding the repayment of around $400m worth of loans. The case, kicked off by Angola’s leading telecoms operator in November 2020 before a London court, took a step forward at a hearing held on 23 May.

During the hearing, lawyers representing Unitel, the bastion of Isabel dos Santos’ empire during the presidency of her father (1979-2017), requested that the businesswoman be personally prosecuted alongside Unitel International Holdings (UIH), the entity initially targeted by the proceedings.

UIH is majority owned by Isabel. It is not known when the London court will return a verdict.


Unitel demands that UIH repay two loans worth €325m (around $349m) and nearly $44m, plus interest. Both loans were used to acquire stakes in telecommunications companies.


Nationalised in October 2022, Unitel has accused Isabel, who chaired the company’s board of directors between 2013 and 2019, of failing in her responsibility and misappropriating funds by not ensuring the repayment of the loans.

The charge is in line with another brought by the Angolan judiciary, which has initiated proceedings for fraud, influence peddling, and money laundering against her, having issued two preventive orders in 2019 and 2022 to freeze her assets, including her stake in UIH.

‘Political persecution’

The accusations have been categorically rejected by her lawyers, who contest the legality of the proceedings against their client in London as well as the freezing of her assets. 

Isabel, who left Angola in 2018 and currently lives in Dubai, denies committing any crimes. She has also denounced “political persecution” carried out against her by João Lourenço, the incumbent head of state and successor of her father. 

Lourenço came to power in 2017 promising to put an end to rampant corruption in the oil-rich country.

A symbol of Angolan success during the Dos Santos era and crowned the first African billionaire by Forbes in 2013, Isabel has been in trouble since her father left the Angolan presidency in September 2017.

Stung by the Luanda Leaks revelations in early 2020, she also lost her husband Sindika Dokolo, who died in a diving accident in Dubai at the end of that year, and then her father, who passed away in July 2022 in Barcelona.

No indictment yet

Although legal proceedings against her and companies in which she has interest have been underway in Portugal and Angola for more than three years, they have not resulted in an indictment so far.

In November 2022, the Portuguese press reported that the International Criminal Police Organisation, Interpol, had issued an international warrant for her arrest.

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