ISSN 2330-717X

Angola: New Court Ruling Confirms Half A Billion In State Funds Swindled – OpEd


By Lisa Vives

The Netherlands-based International Court of Arbitration has affirmed that money transfers to a company controlled by the first daughter of Angola’s ex-president Jose Eduardo dos Santos were “contaminated by illegality” and should be considered “null and void.”

Sonangol, the state-run oil company of Angola, is now expected to take control of a 6% stake in an oil company controlled by Isabel dos Santos worth $497 million dollars—her most valuable publicly traded asset, according to data compiled by the Bloomberg news agency.

Ms. Dos Santos briefly ran Angola’s state oil company Sonangol from 2016 until 2017 when her father’s four-decade rule ended. Once titled Africa’s Richest Woman in Forbes business magazine and other important venues, Ms. Dos Santos could lose a substantial part of her multibillion-dollar business empire with this ruling.

Earlier this year, the Angolan government now led by President Joao Lourenco, alleged that top officials under the former leader Jose Eduardo dos Santos took advantage of high oil prices in the last decade to spin a global web of business deals that led to their personal enrichment at the country’s expense.

President Lourenco has attacked national corruption since taking office, removing his predecessor’s cronies from key positions and probing the former regime for alleged graft.

He has targeted several members of the dos Santos family, including Isabel and her younger brother Jose Filomeno dos Santos, who was sentenced to five years in prison for diverting oil revenues last year.

Ms. Dos Santos has denied any connection to the holding company at the center of the case—Exem—which she says was owned by her late husband. She rejects charges of wrongdoing and claims she faces a

An earlier ruling by the Paris Court of Appeals dismissed an appeal by dos Santos to annul a ruling against her over unpaid dividends and other shareholder agreement breaches. “She’s on the hook for about $340 million”, wrote Forbes magazine earlier this year.

An appeal by the holding company controlled by dos Santos is planned.

Details of the case were uncovered and published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and released in a document known as “Luanda Leaks.”

Despite the anti-corruption crusade of the current president, Angola is still rife with human rights abuses according to New York-based Human Rights Watch. Angolan authorities forcibly evict people and conduct demolitions without the necessary procedural guarantees or the provision of alternative adequate housing or adequate compensation for those evicted, they said. 

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