Angola: Isabel dos Santos accuses President Lourenço of ‘carrying out a plot’ to seize her assets

By Estelle Maussion
Posted on Wednesday, 31 March 2021 12:23

Isabel dos Santos in London, 9 January 2020. Toby Melville/REUTERS

Tension between Isabel dos Santos and the Angolan presidency is intensifying. She has President João Lourenço of carrying out “a plot” to illegally seize her assets.

In a statement released on 29 March by a British public relations agency, dos Santos – who has been in difficulty ever since President Lourenço, came to power in 2017 – denounced a “government conspiracy” implemented by the current Angolan president to “illegally seize” her assets.

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In a dispute over telecoms operator Unitel, in which dos Santos and the Angolan state (via the oil company Sonangol) are shareholders, the eldest daughter of former President dos Santos says she has produced audio and video recordings in a London commercial court. These recordings prove the existence of a “formal working group at government level whose explicit purpose is to devise and coordinate a campaign to seize [her] assets.”

This evidence was collected by the controversial private intelligence firm Black Cube, which was founded by former Israeli Mossad officers and has had several notable clients, including former US film producer Harvey Weinstein and French-Israeli businessman Beny Steinmetz.

It also confirms, according to dos Santos, that the current Angolan President exerted pressure on the Angolan judiciary to obtain a preventive freeze of her assets.

A new offensive

The freeze was pronounced at the end of 2019 in Angola and then at the beginning of 2020 in Portugal. It has, according to the dos Santos camp, prevented the businesswoman from bidding (via her company Vidatel) for the 25% stake in Unitel held by the Brazilian group Oi, and from paying the amount owed to one of its subsidiaries (PT Ventures) within the framework of international arbitration.

At the beginning of 2020, Sonangol (via the company Mercury) acquired the 25% stake, thus increasing its participation in Unitel’s capital to 50%, compared to 25% for dos Santos’ Vidatel and 25% for another company called Geni, which is owned by General Leopoldino do Nascimento “Dino”, José Eduardo dos Santos’ former confidant.

This statement, coupled with the publication of a Financial Times article that presents the facts of the case, is a new offensive by the dos Santos clan against the Lourenço presidency and the Angolan justice system.

Isabel is currently involved in proceedings in London, Amsterdam, Lisbon and the British Virgin Islands.

Lourenço under pressure

The Powerscourt agency, which has been defending dos Santos’ interests since the beginning of 2020 and whose clients have included Steinmetz and Dan Gertler, has denounced – in two different statements sent at the beginning and end of May 2020 – the Luanda authorities for using falsified documents to freeze dos Santos’ assets.

The Angolan presidency and the office of the Attorney General of the Republic, which have rejected the accusation that they launched a political campaign against dos Santos since the opening of the proceedings, did not respond to our requests for comment prior to the publication of this article.

President Lourenço is under increasing pressure to deliver on his anti-corruption agenda and his promise to improve living conditions for the population.

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