Tag Archives: Angola corruption

Angola – Portugal laying corruption charges against V-P Vicente

BBC


Angola Vice President Manuel Vicente -AFP

Manuel Vicente was tipped by some to be Angola’s next president

Portuguese state prosecutors are bringing corruption charges against Angola’s vice-president Manuel Vicente.

The attorney-general’s office says that Mr Vicente paid $810,000 (£650,000) in bribes to shut down corruption investigations that he was facing.

The alleged bribes were made to Portugal’s former public prosecutor Orlando Figueira, who also faces charges as part of “Operation Fizz”.

Mr Vicente’s lawyer has denied the allegations, Portuguese media report.

More on this and other African stories

Elite hoard Angola’s new-found wealth

Mr Vicente served as head of Angola’s state oil company Sonangol from 1999 until 2012, a hugely influential position now occupied by the president’s daughter Isabel Dos Santos.

Until news of the corruption scandal emerged last year, he had been strongly tipped as a potential successor to President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who has ruled Angola since 1979.

The original corruption investigation, halted in 2012, focused on the origin of money Mr Vicente used to buy a luxury apartment in Lisbon, local media reported.
Isabel dos Santos now occupies the post long held by Mr Vicente

The vice-president’s lawyer, Rui Patricio, said his client had not been notified of any charges being brought against him, describing the move as a “procedural violation” which “invalidated the legal process”, local media report.

Portuguese prosecutors say they intend to notify the vice-president of the charges via the Angolan authorities.

Angola has branded previous attempts by Portugal to investigate Mr Vicente as “revenge by the former colonial master” and “neo-colonialism”.

Angola’s political and financial elite have in recent years invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Portugal, Angola’s former colonial ruler.

The investments have largely gone into buying up property and Portuguese companies.

Angola and Nigeria are Africa’s biggest oil producers.

Despite its oil wealth most people in Angola survive on less than $2 a day and child mortality rates are among the highest in the world

Critics accuse President Jose Eduardo dos Santos of being increasingly authoritarian.

Angola – Lourenco new president in waiting

allAfrica/DW

Photo: PEDRO PARENTE

(File photo).

Angola’s Defense Minister Joao Lourenco has been named as the presidential candidate of the country’s ruling party. President Jose Eduardo dos Santos has said that he will not seek re-election after 37 years in power.

For the first time in 37 years, Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos will not lead his party into the upcoming elections. “The party approved the name of the candidate heading the list in the August elections as Joao Manuel Goncalves Lourenco (pictured above),” dos Santos stated. Dos Santos is the second longest serving leader on the African continent. Only Teodoro Obiang Nguema, president of Equatorial Guinea, has been in power longer than Angola’s head of state.

Dos Santos has been president of Angola since 20 September 1979. The country has only had one other president, Agostinho Neto, under whom the country gained independence from Portugal in 1975.

Dos Santos has been dogged by health problems and they have worsened in recent years. His public appearances have become more infrequent, his speeches shorter and his holidays in the Spanish metropolis of Barcelona longer. He has also been undergoing medical treatment in Spain for increasingly prolonged periods. Rumors that he wanted to leave office have intensified over the last few months.

No successor from the family

Angolans have been speculating for years whom dos Santos and the Central Committee of the popular ruling Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) would choose as a successor. Many had expected a member of the dos Santos dynasty. They include the president’s son Jose Filomeno dos Santos, who heads the country’s $5 billion (4.7 billion euros) sovereign wealth fund. This was a position bestowed on him by his father. Two other perceived potential candidates were the president’s daughter Isabel dos Santos, who runs Angola’s state-owned oil company Sonangol, and the deputy president Manuel Vicente, who has close ties to the dos Santos family.

But it has now been decided that defense minister Joao Lourenco is to be the MPLA’s lead candidate for the next elections. This was initially announced by the party’s central committee on December 10 and took many by surprise. Yet it displays a desire for continuity – numerous generals have wielded political influence over Angola in the past. This is part of the dos Santos style of government.

Angolan opposition activist Nuno Dala is critical of Lourenco’s nomination. “Power in the country will remain in the hands of the military because Lourenco is a general,” he said. Dala has experienced first hand what it means to be on the opposing side to Angola’s ruling elites. He spent a year in jail with 16 other members of the opposition because of alleged involvement in a coup. He was released in June.

Joao Lourenco was born in Benguela in southern Angola in 1954. He has been associated with the military throughout his career. He did his military training in the artillery and then became a political officer whose duties included the indoctrination of Angolan soldiers. He received more military training and studied history and related subjects from 1978 to 1982 in what was then the Soviet Union. Equipped with the rank of general, he turned to politics becoming leader of the MPLA in parliament and then deputy president of parliament. He is currently defense minister.

A cleaner candidate

Anti-corruption watchdogs such as Transparency International accuse the dos Santos family of having amassed their fortune corruptly. Joao Lourenco does not face such allegations. He is one of the few Angolan generals and politicians who is free of suspected involvement in major corruption scandals.

“That is certainly to his advantage, because one has the sense that the new president could form an administration which rather less corrupt,” said Dala. “But that doesn’t mean that corruption in Angola will disappear.”

William Tonet publishes the newspaper Folha 8. He is also one of Angola’s best known journalists and doesn’t expect big changes.

Lourenco, he believes, has always been a true son of the party and he won’t alter anything, either because he has compromised himself or he is simply afraid. “So nothing is going to change,” Tonet said.

Parliamentary elections are expected in Angola in mid-2017. Following an amendment to the constitution in 2010, Angolans no longer choose their head of state in a presidential election. The lead candidate of the party that polls the most votes in the parliamentary elections automatically becomes the head of state.

At the last elections in 2012, the MPLA garnered 71.9 percent. International observers maintained, however, that the opposition suffered from disadvantages during the poll.

Could the opposition force the MPLA out of office? Is a repeat of the events in The Gambia earlier this month conceivable? “That does not seem possible, though, of course, in principle, everything is possible if the desire and the need for fundamental change is there,” said Eugenio Costa Almeida, who lectures in political science in Lisbon and Luanda.

“But somebody epitomizing this desire for change would have to step forward,” he added. That person would also have to be a force for political unity. Relations between Angola’s two main opposition parties UNITA and CASA-CE are fractious.

Even though Jose Eduardo dos Santos is stepping down as president, he is not quitting politics. He will remain head of the MPLA up to and beyond the 2017 elections. After all, his family’s not inconsiderable fortune is at stake.

Manuel Luamba in Luanda and Guilherme Correia da Silva contributed to this report.

Angola – the fictional budget

Maka Angola

mausoleu-1

A much-lauded cartoon by Angola’s premier pictorial satirist Sérgio Piçarra recently depicted the state of the country’s economy, thanks to José Eduardo dos Santos, the country’s President for the past 37 years. In his depiction, Angola has a ‘Real Economy’, and a ‘Virtual Economy’, but there is an even third one, the ‘Fictitious Economy’.

It’s a reflection of a truth: every year the Angolan state budget (Orçamento Geral de Estado) is a mixture of the actual (real), anticipated (virtual) and the ‘only on paper’ (fictitious) spending for the year ahead.

Now insiders say the 2017 Budget strays even further from reality than usual.

One example: Angola expects to spend more than 1.7 billion kwanzas (US $6.5 million) on maintenance of the memorial to Agostinho Neto, the country’s first post-independence president.

The Soviet Union undertook the initial construction of the memorial. However, with the collapse of the USSR, the construction remained incomplete for nearly 30 years. The structure, whose architecture is reminiscent of a rocket, was finally completed in 2012, comprising a mausoleum that contains the remains of President Neto, as well as a small museum displaying some of his effects.

How can the annual maintenance bill for a mausoleum, completed only four years ago, be so high?

Compare the allocation for what locals dub the ‘Rocket’ (“Foguetão” in Portuguese) with the 2017 Budget’s allocation of 826.75 million kwanzas (less than US $5 million) to build four badly-needed and long overdue municipal hospitals for the provinces of Moxico, Cunene, Bie and Kuando Kubango.

How are Angolans meant to interpret the budget priorities? Is one dead Angolan (who happened to be the first post-colonial President and, ironically, was a medical doctor) more important that the health of hundreds of thousands of living Angolans?

When it comes to budgetary matters, Angola is perhaps the only country in the world that has a body called the Commission for the Real Economy. Yes. This actually exists. And answers directly to the President. Wits say this is to remind the president from time to time that there is something other than the virtual and fictional worlds in which he operates.

You see, it is important for the executive branch to be seen to be planning the building of more hospitals, but many of these plans do not get off the drawing board or turnout to be just shoddy health posts. Some may be ‘real’ and construction may indeed get started. Some are ‘virtual’ – the money is allocated but the projects are not yet ready. Others are ‘fictitious’ from the get-go and the money is really intended for other things. A similar situation applies to Education.

The José Eduardo dos Santos University (serving Region V, for 12,000 students from the central highlands and eastern provinces of Huambo, Bié and Moxico) gets an allocation of nearly two billion kwanzas (US $11.9 million), while the universities serving other regions (particularly those of the North and East) are under-funded. Kimpa Vita (Region VII, for 9,000 students from Uige and Kwanza Norte) is only worth some 900 million kwanzas (US $5.4 million) and Lueji A’Nkonde (Region IV, for 10,000 students from Lunda Norte, Lunda Sul and Malanje) gets even less: about 700 million kwanzas (US $4 million.

From which we can conclude the following: it is worth more to preserve the memory of a former President than to educate Angolan youth – unless they happen to be youth studying at a university named after the current President.

Public sector post-secondary education in Angola can also be classified under the ‘Real’, ‘Fictitious’ and ‘Virtual’ headings. On the one hand you have the ‘real’ education given to the children of the MPLA élite who almost all are funded to study abroad.

Their qualifications are deemed superior to any awarded in Angola (the ‘fictitious’ kind, given the poor standard of teaching and low marks required to gain a degree). That was certainly the official justification given for the nepotistic appointment of the President’s daughter Isabel dos Santos to run the state oil company, Sonangol: that her engineering degree from the University of London somehow made her more qualified.

Then there is the ‘virtual’ kind, whereby some dunce who could only scrape a diploma transforms it into a job that requires degree-level education on the basis of having a ‘sponsor’ within the ruling party machine.

Delivering an authentically high-quality post-secondary education is inimical to the fortunes of the ruling elite, who resent the questioning of their motives (or the origins of their fabulous fortunes) by enquiring minds. Some say the regime can barely scrape together enough brain cells to keep up appearances (the fiction) that they are working on behalf of the Angolan people (virtual reality) rather than to line their own pockets (the real picture).

There is a further possible interpretation: that no-one could be bothered to do the sums to come up with a rational state budget and the whole thing was cobbled together randomly – “à toa” as they say in Angola.

In general, the Angolan Budget has always been a mixture of fact and fiction, a reflection of the contempt shown by the Dos Santos Administration for the Angolan people when it comes to rendering financial accounts.

Even if the figures it contained were properly calculated, even if the capital projects were accurately estimated and certain to be put into effect, the Budget is nothing more than a virtual document, intended to convey high-minded plans while covering up embezzlement on a grand scale by the political elite.

It’s not just a scandal, it’s an insult to the intelligence of the Angolan people – but then that’s just one more virtual insult in 37 years of a government that in reality acts as a kleptocracy while maintaining the fiction of being a functioning democracy.

Angola – activist calls for dos Santos daughter to step down from Sonangol

Reuters

Angolan activist calls for president’s daughter to step down as oil firm chief

 

Human rights activist Rafael Marques has asked Angola’s Attorney General to revoke the appointment of Isabel dos Santos as head of Sonangol, accusing the president of acting unconstitutionally by putting his daughter in charge of the state energy firm.

Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who came to power in 1979, appointed his billionaire businesswoman daughter as head of Sonangol in June by presidential decree in a shake-up that cements his dynastic grip on power in the oil exporter.

“With matters of natural strategic resources, the president cannot change the rules as he pleases. He must seek a request from the parliament. He did not do that and, therefore, the reforms on Sonangol are unconstitutional,” Marques told Reuters after filing three requests with the Attorney General Office.

“The appointments as a consequence of these reforms that are underway, are also unconstitutional because they are illegal. The president uses his decrees, his powers to award state contracts to his families,” he said.

Angola, currently Africa’s top oil producer because of supply outages caused by militant attacks in Nigeria’s Niger Delta, said in April it would restructure Sonangol to increase efficiency and profitability.

In an interview with Reuters, Isabel dos Santos, 43, pledged to bring openness and efficiency to the 40-year-old company that is frequently criticised as being opaque and unwieldy.

She dismissed suggestions it was her family connections rather than business acumen that led to her appointment after the surprise dismissal of the Sonangol board.

On June 9, a group of lawyers led by David Mendes and Luis Nascimento challenged the manner of her appointment, saying it went against public probity laws. The lawyers also presented their concerns to the Supreme Court.

Angola’s main opposition party, the Union for the Total Independence of Angola (Unita) requested on Tuesday that parliament open an inquiry into the business of Sonangol.

Dos Santos, who rarely appears in public or gives interviews, said in March he intended to step down as president in 2018 but gave no reason for his decision and did not name a preferred successor.

(Reporting by Herculano Coroado; writing by Nqobile Dludla; editing by David Clarke)

Angola – the breadth and depth of corruption

Maka Angola

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The Imob Tower, under construction in downtown Luanda.

NEXT MAKA Supersonic Nepotism: Illegalities at the Speed of Light
President Dos Santos’ Web: Con After Con After Con
Rafael Marques de Morais, June 8, 2016

 

There is a building under construction in Major Kanhangulo Street in the Angolan capital, Luanda, which stands as a prime example of how that country’s President manipulates the national treasury as though it were a private fund for the benefit of himself and his children.It’s called the Imob Business Tower and there is a paper trail that links it directly to President José Eduardo dos Santos and his family.

On September 12, 2014 the President ordered the Finance Ministry to proceed to acquire the Imob Business Tower, then in the first phase of construction, for US $115.4 million. This is documented as Presidential Order No. 182/14, to authorise a real estate transaction between the seller, a private company called Imob Angola – Empreendimentos Imobiliários Lda., and the purchaser, the Government of Angola.Construction of the 35-storey building, designed to be the tallest and slimmest building in the country, was in the hands of a Portuguese firm, Mota-Engil, which had started work in 2013 with completion scheduled for 2017.

The total cost of the works was estimated at around US $40 million, according to information placed into the public domain by Mota-Engil. So far, construction has reached the 25th floor.The playersAt the time the presidential dispatch was issued, Imob Angola’s owners were listed as Mayra Isungi Campos Costa dos Santos (the wife of the President’s son, Filomeno José dos Santos, known as “Zenú”), and a Brazilian entrepreneur named Valdomiro Minoru Dondo, with 45% apiece. The remaining 10% was held by one Óscar Tito Cardoso Fernandes, who happens to be a very good friend of the Finance Minister Armando Manuel.

Is it just coincidence that both Óscar Fernandes and Armando Manuel are also very good friends of Zenú, who recommended his buddy Armando for the Finance Ministry job back in 2013? The Zenú who has a number of shared economic interests with these two friends (the subject of a separate Maka Angola investigation)? The same Zenú (did we mention he is the son of President José Eduardo dos Santos?) who has been put in charge of the Angolan Sovereign Fund, which was set up to ensure that some of the earnings from Angola’s oilfields were invested for the nation’s future, after it was discovered that billions of dollars of earned foreign exchange revenue from Angolan oil had simply “disappeared”?A mere ten days after President Dos Santos signed the order for the Finance Minister to acquire the Imob Angola building, Imob Angola’s partners transferred their entire holdings to two ‘phantom’ companies: Incasa and Bertoli (Incasa – Empreendimentos e Participações Lda and Bertoli– Investimentos e Participações, Lda.) owned by two previously-unknown individuals: Maria Isabel José e Domingas Zanda Muenho.Maka Angola has been given documents which show that on the date of the transfer of Imob Angola to them, Maria Isabel José was living in the Sambizanga neighbourhood, one of Angola’s ‘musseques’ (a slum), in a street with no name and a dwelling with no number.

In turn, Domingas Zanda Muenho was living in the Prenda neighbourhood (in its slum part), also in a street with no name and a house with no number. This strange coincidence attracted attention – because anyone in the Angolan capital with sufficient capital to buy out a multi-million dollar business would be living in far more luxurious circumstances, than the ‘musseques’.And yet – according to documents seen by Maka Angola – on September 25th, Minoru Dondo sold the land on which this tower block was being built for US $6.8 million to Incasa. The sum also included a total buy-out of Imob Angola. As a result he was not a party to the transaction with the Finance Ministry.

The Ministry acknowledged the exit of Minoru from the business three days after the presidential decree ordering the purchase of Imob Tower.Incasa is a business nominally owned 50-50 by Óscar Tito Cardoso Fernandes (Zenú’s buddy) and a Brazilian named António Carlos Perruci Loureiro Alves, who initially worked for the Macon bus firm until 2010 when he emerged as one of Zenú’s circle of business friends.Witnesses (speaking on condition of anonymity) have told Maka Angola that António acted as the Zenú’s front man for the Imob Tower transaction. He was also supplying the software for the Finance Ministry’s General Tax Authority, in effect giving him control of that database.The dealTwo months went by. Then on November 28 of 2014, Finance Minister Armando Manuel issued a despatch of his own, No. 1610/14, delegating powers to the Secretary of State for Patrimony, Franco Burity da Silva, to sign the promissory contract for the sale and purchase of the Imob Angola building. By that time Imob Angola was in the hands of Incasa and Bertoli.Mayra Isungi dos Santos and her husband José Filomeno dos Santos “Zenú” (right).

Two weeks later, on December 15, Zenú’s wife Mayra (just to remind you: the President’s daughter-in-law), appeared before the Notary Public Registry’s Records Office in Kilamba as the official representative of our slum-dwelling millionaires, Maria Isabel José and Domingas Zanda Muenho. No prizes for guessing that Mayra then proceeded to transfer into her own name 70% of the Bertoli holding, with the residual 30% in the names of her three daughters (minors whose father is none other than the President’s son, Zenú). It’s worth repeating: the company registered as Bertoli with the owners living in the slums, was now re-registered with ownership split between the President’s daughter-in-law and grand-daughters: Zenú’s wife Mayra Isungi Campos da Costa dos Santos and their three daughters: 10 year-old Dahlia, 7 year-old Amarilis and 3 year-old Anise.You’ll recall that Zenú’s star was rather eclipsed by his elder half-sister and reputed ‘richest woman in Africa’ Isabel dos Santos who claims to have earned her billion-dollar fortune through keen entrepreneurial instincts shown when she started selling eggs at the age of 6.

At least Zenú can now boast that two of his little girls started their capital acquisition even younger. Thanks to their grandfather’s corrupt schemes, these little girls are now firmly on the road to success in the real estate business.What justification is there for the Finance Ministry and Real Estate Commission to occupy a 35 storey building when a new seat for the Finance Ministry is also already under construction?And why did the Ministry not follow procedure as laid down in Article 28, 1b of the 2010 Public Probity Law?Maka Angola put these questions and more to the Finance Ministry, which has declined to respond to date, even though these questions were submitted in writing on May 13 this year, with a request for clarification regarding the Ministry’s part in this dodgy real estate deal.

What is the point of having a Law of Public Probity (Law 3/10, March 29, 2010) if the Finance Ministry cannot abide by it? Minister Armando Manuel knew full well the role played by his friend’s wife, the President’s daughter-in-law. He should have been bound by Article 28, 1b, which states:“The public agent (in this case, President dos Santos via his delegate Armando Manuel and Armando Manuel’s delegate Burity da Silva) is prohibited from intervening in the preparation, decision-making or execution of acts and contracts in the following cases: (b) when he himself, or as the representative of another person, has an interest in it through a spouse, or direct relative…” (e.g. son, daughter-in-law, grand-daughters).Maka Angola also contacted the other parties to ask for their version of events, but without success. None of the participants wants to answer any questions. Are we surprised?

The finishing touchThe story would not be complete without a further snub to the law. With the sale of the building to the Ministry of Finance, supervision for the works became the exclusive responsibility of a company called BDM (BDM Engenharia e Tecnologia Lda.). That happens to be the same company that designed the building. And who owns BDM? According to a notarized entry in the registry dated April 10th, 2014, they are a Brazilian national named António Carlos Perruci Loureiro Alves (who owns 67.5%), an MPLA Member of Parliament and former Chief of the General Staff of the Angolan Armed Forces named General Armando da Cruz Neto (owning 20%) and Óscar Tito Cardoso Fernandes (with 12.5%).Maka Angola contacted a civil engineer and specialist in public works to ask whether it was normal practice for the design firm to be awarded the contract to inspect the works.“Of course not. The person who designs the building and is offering it for sale, cannot also be inspecting the work. This is totally out of the question. It’s a clear conflict of interest. The inspector would be acting on his own behalf instead of verifying the work on behalf of the state. In this case, the inspector is technically incapable of giving an unbiased inspection.”

The engineer prefers not to give his name (a common occurrence in Angola where any criticism of the President is grounds for imprisonment) but he says that the moment that the State becomes a signatory to the contract, construction of the building becomes a public works matter, subject to both the Administrative Probity and Public Contract Laws:“And according to Article 265, 5 of the Public Contract Law, the inspector named to verify the works cannot under any circumstance be designer of the works.”Puppet prosecutorUnfortunately for Angola, recent statements by the Attorney General of the Republic, General João Maria de Sousa, hailing his fight against corruption, do not amount to anything other than an act of supreme cynicism and hypocrisy.

Under Angolan law, the Office of the Attorney-General reports to the President. Dos Santos is the Attorney-General’s boss, as well as boss of all the State attorneys who are charged with prosecuting criminals and upholding the laws of the land.Without guaranteed independence, how can General João Maria de Sousa be anything other than his master’s puppet? He occupies his position thanks to the patronage of the very President who is robbing Angola blind. To keep his job, he does what the President commands. So in effect the Attorney-General’s role is restricted to locking up those who dare speak out against the President, such as the 17 Luanda Book Club activists, the “Revús”, who are currently rotting in jail while awaiting an appeal against the show-trial, conducted without regard to due process, that convicted them of conspiracy to mount a rebellion.

If anyone is violating the Angolan Constitution, thumbing his nose at the laws of the land while committing blatant crimes (to fill his pockets and those of his family members), it’s José Eduardo dos Santos. The blatant way in which Angola’s President has looted the country for the benefit of his own family makes one question whether the millions of members of the ruling MPLA party have any sense of political, moral, social or patriotic responsibility given how they defend their party and president to the detriment of their country and in defiance of all the evidence.The same question could be put to those serving in the Angolan Armed Forces and National Police. What is Angola to them? Is it just the MPLA’s Angola that they are defending? Is their duty to defend the criminals looting the country or to abide by the Constitution and Laws of Angola to uphold law and order?There is a mountain of evidence, growing by the day, to warrant the impeachment and prosecution of the President and his accomplices if only men of honour were prepared to act. Who now can doubt that dos Santos is a serial thief. And thieves do not belong in the presidential palace. They belong in jail.

Angola – Isobel dos Santos to head Sonangol: fox in charge of the hencoop

Maka Angola

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Isabel dos Santos in Sonangol: Fox Put in Charge of the Henhouse
D. Quaresma dos Santos, June 3, 2016

It doesn’t get any more blatant than this. One of Africa’s worst kleptocrats (according to Forbes Magazine and Transparency International amongst others) demonstrates his unshakeable assurance that he does not expect to be called to account.No lessons learnt here from the trial of Hissene Habre.Barely a week after reports emerged that the ‘billionaire’ daughter of Angola’s President of 37 years (and counting) only amassed her fortune in stock acquisition thanks to a nifty diversion of funds from the state-owned oil company Sonangol, who does President José Eduardo dos Santos name to head the Angolan oil giant? None other than his favoured heiress, Isabel. Should Angola now expect Isabel to repay Sonangol the seed money funnelled through front companies Exem Africa and Esperaza Holdings for her shares in the Portuguese oil and gas company GALP? Or is it more likely that she will organize a massive cover up before the international authorities (now alerted to allegations of improper use of state funds and money-laundering) publicly launch an official investigation?After all her father’s repressive regime has managed to ‘lose’ billions upon billions of dollars of state oil revenues over the past two decades. The only Angolans who have seen a peace dividend since the end of the civil war in 2002, are the presidential family and an expanding Angolan elite who, if dos Santos goes down, would go down with him. Only a few weeks ago Isabel’s name was being mentioned as a possible saviour for the UK retail giant, British Home Stores (BHS – now in liquidation). Surely Isabel might have anticipated that UK industry regulators (not to mention the mass media) would be sniffing at her trail? With lawyers ever hopeful that ‘Johnny Foreigner’ might pay over the odds for this tarnished business, the negative publicity and escalating bid expectations scared away the serious contenders like Matalan’s John Hargreaves and Select Fashions’ Cafer Mahiroglu. Cue demise of BHS.Yet who now, outside Angola, would risk their fortune and credibility by getting involved with Isabel? It would be like ploughing millions into a venture with Mobutu Sese Seko’s hapless heir in the twilight of the dictator’s rule. It can’t end well.And what of Isabel’s business partners. Are the Amorim family (and others) starting to feel anxious? At home the first family have bought their impunity. They have everyone who matters in their pockets: from the security apparatus to the politicians, civil servants, judges, state media outlets and every businessman who entered a Faustian pact with the Dos Santos family in order to make a quick buck at the expense of the Angolan people. They have been co-dependent with José Eduardo – if he goes down, they go down with him.But for how much longer? He is ailing and his daughter is unlikely to command the undivided loyalty of the armed forces or security apparatus. There is an inevitable changing of the guard and it is only a matter of time.For four decades José Eduardo dos Santos has been hiding behind a carefully cultivated façade as the shy technocrat, the petroleum engineer thrust into leadership as the compromise candidate after the untimely death of the national hero, Agostinho Neto.Does anyone now doubt that behind the sweet face and timid demeanour was a rapacious and pitiless opportunist who turned comrades into accomplices in crime as he engineered his continued grip on power through a corrupt system of patronage?His power base was built on suborning decent and honourable men and women who had made great sacrifices for the cause. Few could resist his pitch: a grateful nation rewards you for your years of service. Your President has chosen you for a venture or position that will make you rich beyond your wildest dreams, guarantee that your children have access to health and education overseas, allow you to live like kings.In return, these grateful courtiers made like the three monkeys: see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. Don’t be deceived – they probably knew then (and certainly know now) that the great Angolan con trick couldn’t last forever. Plunging oil prices have them vibrating with anxiety. All the President’s men have their escape plans in place: the second homes in Portugal, South Africa or Brazil; the secret bank accounts scattered around every tax haven in the world. When the going gets tough, dos Santos’s ‘toughs’ will get going.And yet – like so many deluded dictators before him – in these twilight final years, Zedú aims to cement his immortality by forging a dynasty. Insiders in Luanda have been predicting for some time that the imperial succession being planned, would bypass the less-than-stellar sons for the first born. Senior MPLA figures have frequently talked up Isabel’s chances of succeeding her father at the helm. Now he is positioning her at the apex of the money tree that has for so long funded the Dos Santos endeavours.Apparently Sonangol’s new mission statement is “Fazer mais com menos”. Literally, you can translate it as “Do more with less”. Or metaphorically: “Make more profit for ourselves despite lower oil prices”.

Angola – Isabel dos Santos’s fake fortune is Sonangol money

Maka Angola

Rafael Marques de Morais, May 30, 2016

2016

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Isabel dos Santos and her husband Sindika Dokolo at the recent Cannes Festival (Photo: D. Bennet).

When Isabel dos Santos sits down to count her billions, as Africa’s richest woman, much of that fortune is in stocks and shares which she counts as her own. Forbes estimates her wealth at US $3.3 billion. The reality, however, is that a large proportion (almost two thirds of her fortune) estimated at 1.6 billion Euros (US $1.8 billion) according to the Diário Economico’s calculations, corresponds to stocks in the Portuguese oil and gas company, Galp, which legally belong to the Angolan National Oil Company, Sonangol.President José Eduardo dos Santos’s daughter told the Wall Street Journal last February: “I’m not financed by any state money or any public funds.” She insisted “I don’t do that.” Ever since the announcement that she had become a billionaire, Isabel has done her utmost to justify her fortune as “clean”, the result of entrepreneurial expertise which began with her selling eggs at the tender age of six.Galp is Portugal’s largest company in the oil and gas sector with share capital worth 9.5 billion euros.

Maka Angola has conduced an investigation which unmasks Isabel dos Santos and proves that – contrary to her assertions – her Galp shares were obtained via Sonangol in a business deal paid for by State money and public funds. The FactsIsabel’s Galp interests are held indirectly, through the offshore Esperaza Holding BV which owns 45% of Amorim Energia, the largest shareholder in Galp with 38.4% of its stock. Amorim Energia’s majority owner (with 55%) is Portugal’s richest man, Américo Amorim, who was Isabel’s partner in creating the BIC bank in 2005. The two are also partners in the company Nova Cimangola, acquired from Cimpor by the Angolan State for US $75 million. It is through Esperaza Holding that Sonangol’s funds were channelled to Isabel dos Santos.In 2005, when Esperaza Holding bought into Galp, it was registered by the Dutch Chamber of Commerce (Handelsregisterhistorie) as being a company wholly-owned by Sonangol and this was again the case the following year.However, documents obtained by Maka Angola show that on January 25, 2006, Sonangol signed a contract with an offshore company named Exem Africa Limited, registered in the British Virgin Islands, to create Esperaza Holding as a vehicle for investment. The contract – in English – specifies that Sonangol is the sole source of funds that wil be invested in Galp in the name of both parties. This is the ‘smoking gun’ – an undeniable paper trail that shows Angolan public money was put into Esperaza and in turn into its holding in Galp.

With the formalities for the creation of Exem Africa Limited complete, Sonangol transferred 40% of its stake in Galp to Exem. According to a document obtained by Maka Angola, Isabel dos Santos formally reported to the Portuguese Competition Authority [Autoridade da Concorrência] that she is the beneficial owner of the Exem’s shares in Esperaza. In short, Angola’s state oil giant was using a front company in which Isabel dos Santos is the ultimate beneficial owner to channel public money into overseas investments, and without Exem having to put up a single cent, by a stroke of the pen the company found itself the owner of 40% of Sonangol’s investment in Galp.Information in the public domain was that Esperaza Holding (the vehicle for controlling Galp shares) was 45% owned by the President’s daughter and 55% owned by Sonangol. However the formal agreement shows that she received 40% of the stakes, and not 45% as she misleads the public to believe. The deal was signed by Manuel Vicente, then Chairman of the Board and CEO of Sonangol (now Angola’s Vice-President) and on Isabel’s behalf by her legal counsel, Fidel Kiluanje Assis Araújo.The memorandum of understanding between the two parties divided Sonangol’s Galp share acquisition in two phases: in Phase One, Exem would pay Sonangol 11.2 million Euros (US $12.5), equivalent to 15% of the value set at the time for the execution of the transfer of the shares. In Phase Two, Exem would pay Sonangol a further 63.8 million Euros (US $71.5 million) to cover the remaining 85% of the cost of their 40% split of the parcel of Galp shares.It was a sweet deal because Isabel didn’t have to pluck a single penny out of her own purse. The money would come out of the Galp dividends paid to Esperaza Holding along with non-convertible units at the Euribor 3-month interest rate.That same year, 2006, Isabel dos Santos’s husband Sindika Dokolo became a director on the Galp Board on behalf of Esperaza Holding. Isabel dos Santos formally admitted to the Portuguese Competition Authority that she is the minority shareholder in Esperaza Holding through Exem Africa.

Explanations

This is how the scheme worked. Sonangol paid for 45% of the shares in Amorim Energia which in turn held 38.4% of the shares in Galp. Sonangol then ‘donated’ a proportion of that to front companies that lead to Isabel dos Santos, requiring her only to pay up once she had pocketed sufficient dividends from the investment.So far as Maka Angola has been able to establish, there is no evidence whatsoever that Isabel (or her front companies) ever paid Sonangol the agreed sums. No official record seems to exist to show even that first payment (11.2 million Euros) changing hands.In fact, even if she were to pay up in full, the total bill for the share transfer (75 million Euros to obtain 40% of Esperaza) was actually less than the true cost of Sonangol’s investment. How else then can this transaction be described except as an illict transfer of State assets to the President’s daughter?Isabel dos Santos didn’t have to spend a single penny of her own money on this fine piece of business. All the money owed to Sonangol for the share split would come from the profits: Galp pays dividends to Esperaza and Esperaza is then supposed to divide it up and remit to Sonangol its share (60%). But Sonangol’s balance sheets and accounts show no payments from Isabel dos Santos’s holdings towards these debts.

To date, all that has happened is that Sonangol made the purchase and Isabel received the pay-out. And yet she portrays herself “in ringing declarations” as “tremendously independent.” “I always had this wish to stand alone and not be in my parents’ shadow,” she told the Wall Street Journal earlier this year.In truth, thanks to her father’s 37-year Presidency, Isabel has used Angola’s state oil company as her private investment banker doling out an ‘inheritance’ worth hundreds of millions of US dollars to propel her into billionaire status, at the expense of the long-suffering and impoverished Angolan people who should be the true beneficiaries of Angola’s oil wealth.So it should come as no surprise to anyone that the person entrusted by the President with the restructuring of Sonangol (through her position as Chair of the Commission for the Reorganization of the Oil Sector) is none other than Isabel dos Santos. This brainchild – the creation of the Boston Consulting Group and the Portuguese firm of lawyers Vieira de Almeira e Associados – is nothing more than the latest scheme by which the President’s family milks Sonangol for its own ends.

Conclusion

An estimated two-thirds of Isabel’s fortune is based on her Galp shareholding, which, with no evidence to show that she has ever repaid Sonangol for its initial investment, should properly belong to the Angolan state oil company.Maka Angola’s legal analyst, Rui Verde, says this: “Isabel dos Santos’s shares in Galp should have an ownership reserve clause or a lien on these assets in favour of Sonangol until such time as the money owed is paid up in full. Even then it is not a legal act for a state firm to function as a private investment bank for the presidential family.”“From a strictly legal point of view, the handover of shares to front companies acting for Isabel, should be ruled null and void with the shares immediately reverting to Sonangol ownership.”In this lawyer’s professional opinion, there is a strong case for a criminal investigation by both Portugal and Angola into this matter, because of the “indications of corruption, embezzlement, evasion and money-laundering”.“Evidence that the shareholding obtained by Isabel dos Santos came about through the unsanctioned use of state funds by underhand means, is sufficient grounds to suggest a contravention of the international laws against money-laundering, and that is a public crime requiring obligatory investigation by the Office of the Attorney General.”Independent observers say that the use of Sonangol’s funds as a launchpad for his daughter’s business interests is just one example of the myriad ways in which the President and his family are systematically robbing the Angolan public purse for their own ends in broad daylight and in full public view. It’s incomprehensible to outsiders why the Angolan public has remained so submissive in light of the rapacious greed of the robber baron family that rules over them.