Isabel dos Santos faces tough times as Angola targets assets


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Ms Isabel dos Santos, daughter of former Angolan President Eduardo dos Santos, is fighting a decision by the court to have her assets seized in a bid to recover debts she reportedly owes the government.

Ms dos Santos, who markets herself as an accomplished engineer, entrepreneur and public figure, was declared by Forbes as Africa’s richest woman with a net worth of $2.2 billion.

A Luanda court on Monday ordered the freezing of Ms dos Santos’ all bank accounts and those of her Congolese husband Sindika Dokolo as well as those of their business partner Mário Leite da Silva, the head of the Angolan Foment Bank (BFA).

The court dispatch said there was evidence that Ms dos Santos owes Angola at least $ 100 million siphoned through state-run oil firm Sonangol and Sodiam, transferred through entities abroad.

According to the dispatch, Ms dos Santos, her husband and Mr da Silva acknowledged they owe the State money but they had refused to pay.


“Ms Isabel dos Santos also tried unsuccessfully to transfer huge amounts of Euros to Russia through Portugal in order to invest in Japan,” it said.

Her assets in Angola include a 25 per cent stake in Unitel, one of the southern Africa state’s two mobile phone networks, and a 25 per cent stake in Banco Internacional de Credito (Banco BIC), 51 per cent in BFA and 99,9 per cent in Zap Media.

She has investments in Portugal and England. But while the move by the courts is seen as part of the new regime’s anti-corruption crackdown, Ms dos Santos has viciously fought back the claims, outside court, arguing the decision flouted fair rules of justice.

“[The] Angolan court did not provide the companies or the individuals subject to the order prior notice of the existence of any proceedings. The companies and the individuals therefore did not have an opportunity to present evidence to defend themselves prior to the issuance of the order,” she said on her Twitter page on Thursday.

She went clarified the temporary order did not give the government the right to seize the assets as there had been no proof yet the debt actually exists.

Ms dos Santos has been abroad since 2018, when the government of President João Lorenco took power. She claimed she had fled persecution. But the court decision points to a deeper look at how she amassed wealth. She was ranked by Forbes magazine the 74th most powerful woman globally in 2017.

The 46-year-old studied engineering at King’s College, London, and opened her first business, a restaurant called Miami Beach in Luanda, in 1997 when she was 24.

And despite coming from a family that ruled the country for decades, she argues she has contributed immensely by employing Angolans.

“My companies employ thousands of in Angola, providing well-paid jobs with good benefits,” she claimed.

 “We have contributed over $200 million in taxes. We provide over 20,000 jobs, and we support over 30,000 small businesses,” she added.

The court’s move has caused a debate back in Angola. Local MP Mr João Pinto from the ruling Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola (MPLA) party said there will be political, social and economic consequences.

 In a Facebook post, the legislator said prudence and caution should be employed in this process for justice to be seen as served. 

Ms dos Santos argues that many of her firms will close down. She alleged that she was unable to pay salaries, make new investments or honour agreements with suppliers.

 “If I want to pay a bill to a supplier, I cannot,” she told her followers on Instagram.

After the issue of the judicial order to confiscate her assets, Angola’s Attorney General’s Office has 30 days to implement the order.  

Failure to do so means the assets will be returned to their owners, according to a report in state-run Jornal de Angola on Friday which quoted a lawyer.

Ms dos Santos claims her family could be targeted. She however, said that her father had advised her to stay strong.

In November 2017, the former president’s eldest daughter was sacked as chair of the board of the state-owned oil firm Sonangol.

Ms dos Santos had been appointed to chair the Sonangol board by her father in June 2016.

President Lourenço took over from dos Santos who had ruled Angola for 38 years, in August 2017.

Mr Dos Santos’ family and allies still control huge sectors of Africa’s second-largest oil producer.

In January 2018, President Lourenço fired his predecessor’s son, José Filomeno dos Santos, as the country’s head of the strategic $5 billion Sovereign Fund.

He faces a court case in Angola and his trial is to resume on January 16. 

The former president had appointed his eldest son as president of Fundo Soberano de Angola in 2013.

President Lourenço has also dismissed a number of dos Santos kin and allies from key government institutions. The move is seen as a way of   asserting his authority. ENDS….

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