World Isabel dos Santos: what is accused of the ″...

Isabel dos Santos: what is accused of the ″ richest woman in Africa ″?

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José Eduardo dos Santos was president of Angola for 38 years. During much of that period, his daughter, Isabel dos Santos, had access to very lucrative businesses involving property, oil, diamonds and communications. The documents now revealed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) intend to show how many of the businesses of Isabel dos Santos, 46, “the richest woman in Africa”, may have involved numerous irregularities.

The documents analyzed by ICIJ journalists from various international bodies – including the British The Guardian and BBCthe american The New York Times is Portuguese Express – reveal a network of 400 companies, many of them offshore, related to Isabel dos Santos and her husband Sindika Dokolo, as well as the assistance given to them by a series of American and European consultants and lawyers – including Portuguese. The investigation refers to the business that took place between 1980 and 2018.

Andrew Feinstein, director of the organization Corruption Watch, has no doubt that the documents prove that Dos Santos stole his country and all Angolans. “Every time she appears on the cover of a luxury magazine somewhere in the world, every time she promotes one of her glamorous parties in the south of France, she does it by trampling the aspirations of the citizens of Angola,” he said to the BBC.

However, the documents revealed in the “Luanda Leaks” case did not take the international financial community completely by surprise. Since João Lourenço assumed the presidency of Angola, the siege around Isabel dos Santos and her family has started to tighten.

In March 2018, the Angolan Attorney General’s Office opened an investigation into Sonangol’s management, following statements by the chairman of the oil company’s board of directors, Carlos Saturnino, about “irregular money transfers ordered by the previous Sonangol management and other procedures incorrect “during Isabel dos Santos’ leadership in the company.

In December of last year, the Court of Luanda ordered the seizure of the holdings of Isabel dos Santos and her husband Sindika Dokolo, in the companies where they have a shareholding position, cases of Zap, Unitel, Cimentangola, Contidis and banks BIC and BFA, as well as seizure of the couple’s bank accounts.

Although it is confirmed that Matter has carried out some consultancy work, there are very few details on the invoices to justify such high payments. According to the BBC, there is, for example, an invoice of 462 196 euros for “unspecified expenses” and another of 928 517 dollars for “unspecified legal services”. Two of the invoices are worth $ 676,339.97 and are for exactly the same job on the same date – and both were signed by Isabel dos Santos.

Matter Business Solutions’ lawyers explain that despite the date, the invoices refer to jobs that had already been done. They also explain that it is common for invoices to not specify expenses because that would imply a huge amount of documents, but Matter was available to provide documentary evidence to justify all expenses.

Isabel dos Santos’ lawyers also state that all payments made are legal: “All invoices paid refer to services agreed between the two parties, according to a contract that was approved with the full knowledge and approval of the Board of Directors of Sonangol” .

Galp and Sonangol

Much of Isabel dos Santos’ fortune comes from her participation in Galp, a Portuguese energy company, which one of her companies bought from Sonangol in 2006.

The revealed documents show that it only paid 15% of the amount and that the remaining 63 million euros were transformed into a low interest loan to Sonangol. According to the terms of the loan, reveals the BBC, the debt would only have to be paid after 11 years. In 2017, Dos Santos’ company paid the debt to Sonangol but was not required to pay the almost 9 million euros in interest due. In fact, at that time she was responsible for Sonangol, so she was the one who accepted the terms of the payment of her own debt.

Its participation in Galp is now worth more than 750 million euros.

In her defense, Isabel dos Santos says that the deal was also profitable for Sonangol: “There is absolutely no irregularity in any of these transactions. This is the investment that generated the most benefits for the national oil company and all the contracts drawn up are perfectly cool.”

The diamonds of Sindika Dokolo

In 2012, Isabel dos Santos’ husband, Sindika Dokolo, partnered with the state-owned diamond company, Sediam, to buy a stake in Swiss luxury jewelry, De Grisogono. Despite being well known among the elite, De Grisogno was facing serious financial problems at the time and needed external funding.

There should have been a 50-50 partnership between Melbourne Investments (Dokolo’s company) and Sediam but the funding was mostly state-owned. The documents show that 18 months after the deal, Sodiam had invested $ 79 million, while Dokolo had only invested $ 4 million. According to The Guardian newspaper, Sindika Dokolo’s lawyers rejected these figures and claim that Dokolo invested $ 115 million in the acquisition.

In addition, to carry out the acquisition of De Grisogno, Melbourne Investments contracted as a broker a company located in the British Virgin Islands, Almerk International, which received US $ 4 million from Sodiam for “financial advice”. And, as it is now revealed, this company actually belonged to Sindika Dokolo.

Mayor of Porto, Rui Moreira, presents the City Medal of Merit to the collector Sindika

Mayor of Porto, Rui Moreira, presents the City Medal of Merit to the collector Sindika Dokolo, in March 2015

© Artur Machado / Global Images Archive

To carry out the deal, Sodiam had to borrow money from a private bank, Banco Bic, of which Isabel dos Santos is the majority shareholder. The loan was guaranteed by a presidential decree by José Eduardo dos Santos, thus ensuring that the bank will not have losses. And Sodiam has to pay 9% interest. “In the end, when we finish paying off this loan, Sodiam will have lost more than $ 20 million,” said Bravo da Rosa, Sodiam’s new executive director.

The former president also gave Sindika Dokolo and Isabel dos Santos the status of “preferential buyers” when purchasing rough diamonds from Angola. According to the documents revealed, some diamonds were sold at prices well below the market price, damaging Angolan coffers.

Land and developments

With the help of José Eduardo dos Santos ‘presidential decrees, one of Isabel dos Santos’ companies bought a square kilometer of land in a privileged area by the sea in Luanda, the capital of Angola. The contract says the land was worth $ 96 million but the documents revealed show that the company paid only 5% of that amount after agreeing to invest the rest in the Futungo project.

The BBC’s Panorama program was looking for some of the people who were evicted from these lands and were relocated to an isolated housing estate, 50 kilometers from the capital, far from the sea. Many of these people had to change jobs or start their small businesses from scratch. Another 500 families have been evicted from another land on the seafront of Luanda because of another major construction project by Isabel dos Santos and currently live in tents without conditions.

Isabel dos Santos says that there were no evictions related to her construction projects and that her companies were never paid because the projects were canceled.

The telecommunications business

In 1999, Isabel dos Santos acquired a 25% stake in Unitel, the largest mobile phone operator in the country. The telecommunications license had been granted by his father a year earlier. The part she bought belonged to a senior government official. Since then, Dos Santos has already received $ 1 billion in dividends from Unitel and his participation is worth just as much.

In addition, she managed to get Unitel to loan 350 million euros to a new company, Unitel International Holdings – but the name of this company is misleading because it has no relationship with Unitel and was owned by Isabel dos Santos.

The revealed documents show that Isabel dos Santos signed the loans as a creditor and as a borrower, in the event of a conflict of interest. Isabel dos Santos has already reacted: “This loan was approved by the directors and shareholders and is a loan that will generate benefits for Unitel”, he said. Its lawyers also ensure that the loans protected Unitel from currency fluctuations.

A very similar situation happened with Jadeium, another company from Isabel dos Santos. The situation drew the attention of the Portuguese company PT Ventures – which was one of Unitel’s shareholders and who even filed a formal complaint with the Paris Chamber of Commerce, claiming that hundreds of millions in loans made by Unitel to the Dutch ghost companies of Isabel dos Santos were a scheme to loot Unitel’s assets for the benefit of the daughter of the president of Angola.

Isabel dos Santos’ reaction

The Angolan businesswoman says that the investigation is based on “false documents and information”, in a “political attack” coordinated with the Angolan Government. “The news from ICIJ [Consórcio Internacional de Jornalismo de Investigação] they are based on many false documents and false information, it is a political attack coordinated in coordination with the ‘Angolan Government’ (sic). 715 thousand documents read? Who believes in that? “, The businesswoman reacted, through her Twitter account, adding the tags” #icij #mentiras “.

Isabel dos Santos also attacks the Portuguese media SIC and Expresso, which are part of the consortium of journalists that revealed more than 715 thousand files detailing financial schemes of Isabel dos Santos and her husband, Sindika Dokolo. On his Twitter account, where he writes at times in English and at times in Portuguese, he says that his “fortune” was born with his “character, intelligence, education, work capacity and perseverance” and accuses SIC and Expresso of “racism” “and” prejudice “,” recalling the era of ‘colonies’ in which no African can be worth the same as a ‘European’ “

“Are the leaks authentic? Who knows? Nobody …”, he wrote on Twitter on Sunday. In another tweet, writes that “the people of Portugal are friends with the people of Angola and we cannot let ‘some’ isolated interests ‘stir up’ the friendship and respect that we have managed to conquer and build together”.

Price Waterhouse cuts ties with Isabel dos Santos

Most of the companies involved in the suspicious businesses were supervised by accountants who worked for the financial services company, Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC). But, after the disclosure of the documents, the PWC consultant ended, this Monday, its relationship with Isabel dos Santos.

Tom Keatinge, director of the Center for Security Studies and Financial Crimes, told the BBC that the PWC legitimized the business of Isabel dos Santos and her companies. “Even if it is not facilitating corruption, PWC is providing an appearance of respectability that makes everything acceptable,” he says.

PWC stated that it strives to maintain the highest professional standards and has a consistent ethical code in all its branches. “In response to the allegations raised, which are very serious and worrying, we have already started an investigation and we are evaluating the facts thoroughly,” said the PWC, guaranteeing: “We will not hesitate to take the appropriate measures to ensure that we always uphold the highest standards behavior, wherever in the world we operate. “

In the same statement, the company says it has taken “steps to end any work in progress for entities controlled by members of the Santos family”.

Businesswoman no longer goes to Davos

The name of Isabel dos Santos was removed from the list of speakers at the World Economic Forum, which takes place this Tuesday and Wednesday in Davos, Switzerland, and which will be attended by 50 heads of state and around 2 800 participants .

Unitel, a company owned by the Angolan, had paid to be one of the sponsors of the conference (it would even be the first Angolan company to join the list of partners of the Economic and World Forum), but the organization is reevaluating that role, The Guardian.

EuroBic moves away from Isabel dos Santos

Following the information revealed by the Luanda Leaks case, the EuroBic bank also said in a statement this Monday that it decided to “end the commercial relationship with entities controlled by the universe of the shareholder Eng.ª Isabel dos Santos and people closely related to the same . “

Management further clarifies that “payments ordered by the client Sociedade Nacional de Combustíveis de Angola (Sonangol) to Matter Business Solutions respected the legal and regulatory procedures formally applicable within the scope of the regular commercial relationship between this Bank and Sonangol, namely those that refer to the prevention of money laundering. “

Meanwhile, Banco de Portugal announced that “it will withdraw the due consequences, namely in prudential and administrative matters”, from information received from EuroBic, requested following the disclosure of the Luanda Leaks. In the same document, the central bank states that “today it asked EuroBic for information that would enable it to assess how the institution analyzed and complied with the duties it is subject to in relation to the prevention of money laundering and the financing of terrorism”.

Portuguese authorities remain attentive to the case

The Public Prosecutor’s Office will analyze the information made public within the scope of the Luanda Leaks and “will trigger the appropriate procedures”. In a response sent to the Lusa agency, the Attorney General’s Office (PGR) states that “the Public Prosecutor’s Office will not fail to analyze all the information that has been made public and to trigger the appropriate procedures within the scope of its powers”, guaranteeing that ” follow up on requests for international judicial cooperation addressed to it “.

Also the Secretary of State for Finance, Ricardo Mourinho Félix, affirmed this Monday that the Portuguese Government is “obviously attentive” to the revelations of the financial schemes of the Angolan businesswoman Isabel dos Santos in Portugal, but awaits “with serenity” the investigations. “It is not up to the Government to respond to evidence, whether they are of a counter-national nature or of a totally criminal nature,” said Ricardo Mourinho Félix, speaking to Portuguese journalists in Brussels.

Asked about the possible impact of Isabel dos Santos’ financial schemes on the Portuguese Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the Secretary of State for Finance pointed out that this “is an issue that has arisen and that is being followed up by regulators”, not going any further. Details. “With serenity, we will wait for the evaluation, for the work of the supervisors and, eventually, of the competent judicial authorities to look at this issue”, he added, insisting that “the evidence […] will have to be accompanied by the authorities “.

What is the International Investigative Journalism Consortium?

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (CIJI), better known by its English acronym ICIJ, is a worldwide network of collaboration of journalists, organized with the objective of promoting the joint investigation of several professionals and the mobilization of various media in the dissemination of the stories produced. ICIJ was founded in 1997 under the auspices of the Center for Public Integrity, an American non-profit organization founded in 1989 that promotes investigative journalism on matters of corruption, abuse of power and transparency by public and private entities . The founder of both structures was Charles Lewis, who before founding ICIJ was a journalist on the program 60 Minutes, the American television station ABC.

This consortium currently comprises more than 190 journalists from 65 different countries, including Portugal. Rui Araújo and Micael Pereira are the two Portuguese journalists who are part of the ICIJ. The Expresso newspaper and the TVI24 channel are the two Portuguese media partners of ICIJ. Other partners are BBC and The Guardian (from UK), The Washington Post e The New York Times (USA), El Confidencial (Spain), Le Monde (France), The state of Sao Paulo (Brazil).

ICIJ works with multinational teams, supported by lawyers, computer technicians and researchers with the aim of gathering as much information as possible, by crossing sources. The funding is provided by a set of foundations (mostly North American) and by private support, where the Australian entrepreneur Graeme Wood stands out.

ICIJ was responsible for other investigations, including “SwissLeaks” (2015) or “Panama Papers” (2016).

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