Isabel dos Santos indicted for embezzlement and more

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By Aurélie M’Bida, Estelle Maussion

The noose is tightening around the daughter of former Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos. After the release of the “Luanda Leaks”, the Angolan courts have swung into action.

Angolan Attorney General Hélder Pitta Grós said on the evening of Wednesday 22 January that Isabel dos Santos had been indicted for mismanagement and embezzlement during her tenure as head of the state-owned oil company Sonangol from June 2016 to November 2017.

The announcement was made just before the Angolan prosecutor’s departure for Portugal. Upon his arrival in Lisbon on the morning of Thursday 23 January, he said he was coming “to ask for help on a lot of things”, according to the Portuguese press.

Hélder Pitta Grós is scheduled to meet his Portuguese counterpart, Lucília Gago, at 3pm.

Suspicious transfer of $38m

The indictment of Isabel dos Santos comes after her successor as Sonangol’s CEO, Carlos Saturnino, filed a complaint of mismanagement that led to the opening of an investigation in March 2018. Isabel dos Santos had strongly contested this accusation via Twitter and the media. She had even launched a website called “Factos Sonangol” to “restore the truth”.

The Angolan justice system is looking into a suspicious transfer of $38m from Sonangol, which was made when the daughter of former President José Eduardo dos Santos was no longer its director, to a company she owned that was based in Dubai. The company in question, Matter Business Solutions, managed a group of consultants seconded to Sonangol.

The Portuguese press, especially the newspaper Expresso, reports that more than $100m were allegedly transferred to Dubai under suspicious conditions in connection with the “Luanda Leaks”.

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More than half of the sum $57m appears to have been paid after Isabel dos Santos left her post. Some invoices do not detail the services performed. And the authorisation for the transactions is said to have been signed by a new director of Sonangol’s UK subsidiary, previously appointed by Isabel dos Santos.

Four other indictments

In the Sonangol proceedings, four other persons of Portuguese nationality are also under investigation in Angola.

They are:

  • Sarju Raikundalia, former financial director of Sonangol,
  • Mário Leite da Silva, the main manager of Isabel dos Santos’ business in Portugal (also Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Angolan bank BFA),
  • Paula Oliveira, a close associate of Isabel dos Santos and director of the Portuguese telecommunications group NOS,
  • and Nuno Ribeiro da Cunha, the director of the Eurobic bank.