Angola’s ex-president has defended his son and a former central bank governor who are accused of embezzling $500 million from the country’s sovereign wealth fund, court documents showed on Tuesday.
Jose Eduardo dos Santos’ family are in the spotlight after his billionaire daughter was indicted in Angola last month for a host of high-level financial crimes in the oil-rich nation.
The ex-leader’s son, Jose Filomeno dos Santos, is accused of embezzling $500 million (460 million euros) from state coffers during his tenure as head of Angola’s sovereign fund.
He is charged alongside the former governor of the national bank of Angola, Valter Filipe da Silva, and two others.
The four defendants are accused of transferring the funds to a Swiss bank during the dos Santos presidency, in a case that has rocked the powerful former first family.
But the former leader, who currently lives in Spain, said the transfer was meant to guarantee a $30 billion investment into Angola to “improve the life of the population”.
“I authorised the transfer of the $500 million,” Santos said in a written response to questions sent to him by judges and read in court on Tuesday.
“The actions were carried out for the country’s economic situation… not in the personal interest of the people who executed it,” he added in the statement dated February 6.
The judge accepted the ex-president’s response despite complaints by the prosecution that the document was not original and was only signed on the final page.
Jose Filomeno dos Santos, nicknamed “Zenu”, is the first member of the ex-president’s family to be prosecuted.
Both Zenu and da Silva have denied the allegations.
“These acts were part of the mandate that was given by the former president,” da Silva’s lawyer Sergio Raimundo told reporters after the hearing.
In all, Zenu is accused of trying to steal as much as $1.5 billion (1.38 billion euros) during his 2013-2018 stewardship of Angola’s sovereign fund.
The trial is taking place alongside allegations against Isabel dos Santos, the ultra-wealthy daughter of the ex-leader who is accused of money laundering and influence peddling.
The charges against her followed the January publication by international media outlets of a probe dubbed “Luanda Leaks” that claimed she fraudulently accumulated a fortune estimated at $2.1 billion (1.9 billion euros).
Resource-rich Angola is ranked 146 out of 180 countries on Transparency International’s corruption perceptions index.
Most of the country’s 30 million people live in poverty, failing to benefit from the flood of dollars from crude oil and diamonds.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday lauded Angolan President Joao Lourenco’s anti-corruption drive, which has seen him pursue the dos Santos family.