Isabel dos Santos: Africa’s richest woman ‘ripped off Angola’

Punctured documents reveal how Africa’s richest woman made her fortune be means of exploiting her own country, and corruption.

Isabel dos Santos got access to lucrative negotiations involving land, oil, diamonds and telecoms when her father was president of Angola, a southern African boonies rich in natural resources.

The documents show how she and her husband were allowed to buy valuable imperial assets in a series of suspicious deals.

Ms Dos Santos says the allegations against her are only false and a politically motivated witch-hunt by the Angolan government.

The former president’s daughter has assertive the UK her home and owns expensive properties in central London.

She is already secondary to criminal investigation by the authorities in Angola for corruption and her assets in the country hold been frozen.

Now BBC Panorama has been given access to more than 700,000 leaked chronicles about the billionaire’s business empire.

Most were obtained by the Plank to Protect Whistle-blowers in Africa and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Newswomen (ICIJ).

They’ve been investigated by 37 media organisations subsuming The Guardian and Portugal’s L’Espresso newspaper.

Andrew Feinstein, the head of Corruption Pay attention to, says the documents show how Ms Dos Santos exploited her country at the expense of prosaic Angolans.

“Every time she appears on the cover of some glossy journal somewhere in the world, every time that she hosts one of her glamorous get-togethers in the south of France, she is doing so by trampling on the aspirations of the citizens of Angola.”

The ICIJ require called the documents The Luanda Leaks.

The oil connection

One of the most suspicious administers was run from London through a UK subsidiary of the Angolan state oil company Sonangol.

Ms Dos Santos had been put in attack of the struggling Sonangol in 2016, thanks to a presidential decree from her father Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who restricted a tight grip on his country for the 38 years he was in power.

But when he retired as president in September 2017 her placing was soon under threat, even though his hand-picked successor came from the unchanging party. Ms Dos Santos was sacked two months later.

Many Angolans require been surprised at the way that President Joao Lourenço has gone after the task interests of his predecessor’s family.

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Angola in numbers
  • $4,170customarily income, but this masks big disparities

  • 30%of population live in poverty – less than $1.90/day

  • 2ndbiggest oil farmer in Africa. Also major diamond producer

Source: World Bank, Opec

The released documents show that as she left Sonangol, Ms Dos Santos approved $58m of open to doubt payments to a consultancy company in Dubai called Matter Business Fluids.

She says she has no financial interest in Matter, but the leaked documents reveal it was run by her organization manager and owned by a friend.

Panorama understands that Matter sent uncountable than 50 invoices to Sonangol in London on the day that she was fired.

Ms Dos Santos manifests to have approved payments to her friend’s company after she was sacked.

Although some consultancy prevail upon had been carried out by Matter, there’s very little detail on the invoices to vindicate such large bills.

One asks for €472,196 for unspecified expenses, another enquire ofs for $928,517 for unspecified legal services.

Two of the invoices – each for €676,339.97 – are for just the same work on the same date and Ms Dos Santos signed them both off anyway.

Mouthpieces for Matter Business Solutions say it was brought in to help restructure the oil industry in Angola, and that the invoices were for get ready that had already been carried out by other consultancy companies it had cost.

“Regarding the invoices related with expenses, it is common for consultancy companies to add expenses to invoices as a encyclopaedic item. This is often due to those expenses involving large amounts of paperwork… Be of consequence can produce documentary evidence to confirm all expenses incurred.”

Ms Dos Santos’s legal practitioners said her actions with regard to the Matter payments were in every respect lawful and that she had not authorised payments after she had been dismissed from Sonangol.

They pronounced: “All invoices paid were in relation to services contracted and agreed between the two associates, under a contract that was approved with the full knowledge and authorize of the Sonangol Board of Directors.”

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The ICIJ and Panorama have also uncovered new details about the firm deals that made Ms Dos Santos rich.

Much of her fortune is based on her ownership of a risk in the Portuguese energy company Galp, which one of her companies bought from Sonangol in 2006.

The documents may be seen it only had to pay 15% of the price upfront and that the remaining €63m ($70m) was equipped into a low-interest loan from Sonangol.

Under the generous arranges of the loan, her debt to the Angolan people didn’t have to be repaid for 11 years.

Her impound in Galp is now worth more than €750m.

Ms Dos Santos’s company did propose to repay the Sonangol loan in 2017.

The repayment offer should have been give someone the cold shouldered because it didn’t include almost €9m of interest owing.

But Ms Dos Santos was in command of Sonangol at the time and she accepted the money as full payment of her own debt.

She was enkindled six days later and the payment was returned by the new Sonangol management.

Ms Dos Santos bring to lights she initiated the purchase of the stake in Galp, and that Sonangol made shekels from the deal as well.

“There’s absolutely no wrongdoing in any of those records. This investment is the investment that in history has generated the most further for the national oil company and all the contracts that were drafted are perfectly sound contracts, there are no wrongdoings.”

Her lawyers say the repayment offer in 2017 command concealed what Sonangol had indicated was owed.

The diamond connection

It’s a similar feature in the diamond industry.

Ms Dos Santos’s husband, Sindika Dokolo, signed a lopsided agreement in 2012 with Angolan state diamond company Sodiam.

They were hypothetical to be 50-50 partners in a deal to buy a stake in the Swiss luxury jeweller De Grisogono.

But it was funded by the regal company. The documents show that 18 months after the conduct oneself treat, Sodiam had put $79m into the partnership, while Mr Dokolo had only instated $4m. Sodiam also awarded him a €5m success fee for brokering the deal, so he didn’t play a joke on to use any of his own money.

The diamond deal gets even worse for the Angolan living soul.

The documents reveal how Sodiam borrowed all the cash from a private bank, de Grisogono, in which Ms Dos Santos is the biggest shareholder.

Sodiam has to pay 9% rate and the loan was guaranteed by a presidential decree from her father, so Ms Dos Santos’s bank cannot be beaten out.

Bravo da Rosa, the new chief executive of Sodiam, told Panorama that the Angolan people hadn’t got a distinct dollar back from the deal: “In the end, when we have finished requiting back this loan, Sodiam will have lost innumerable than $200m.”

The former president also gave Ms Dos Santos’s old man the right to buy some of Angola’s raw diamonds.

Who is Isabel dos Santos?

  • Eldest daughter of ex-President Jose Eduardo dos Santos
  • Get hitched to Congolese art collector and businessman Sindika Dokolo
  • Educated in UK, where she currently lives
  • Articled to be Africa’s richest woman, with a fortune of some $2bn
  • Has stakes in oil and quick phone companies and banks, mostly in Angola and Portugal

Source: Forbes armoury and others

Read more: Africa’s richest woman eyes Angolan presidency

The Angolan control says the diamonds were sold at a knockdown price and sources father told Panorama that almost $1bn may have been lost.

Ms Dos Santos recognized the BBC she couldn’t comment because she is not a shareholder of de Grisogono.

But the leaked documents direct that she is described as a shareholder of de Grisogono by her own financial advisers.

Mr Dokolo did put in some bread later. His lawyers say he invested $115m and that the takeover of de Grisogono was his end. They say his company paid above the market rate for the raw diamonds.

The earth connection

The leaked documents also reveal how Ms Dos Santos bought realty from the state in September 2017. Once again she only had to pay a negligible up-front fee.

Her company bought a square kilometre of prime beachfront earth in the capital Luanda with the help of presidential decrees signed by her parson.

The contract says the land was worth $96m, but the documents show her company reimburse b bribed only 5% of that after agreeing to invest the rest in the phenomenon.

Panorama traced some of the ordinary Angolans who were evicted to pass way for the Futungo development.

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They’ve been step on ited from the Luandan seafront to an isolated housing development 30 miles (50km) from the savings.

Teresa Vissapa lost her business to Ms Dos Santos’ development and is now struggling to recall c raise up her seven children.

She said: “I only ask God to make her think a little various about our situation. Maybe she doesn’t even know it, but we are suffering.”

Ms Dos Santos denied to comment on the Futungo development.

But it was not the only land deal involving Ms Dos Santos that transferred the local population.

About 500 families were evicted from another expanse of the Luandan seafront after Isabel dos Santos got involved in another greater redevelopment project.

The families are now living in desperate conditions next to an agape sewer. Some of their shacks are flooded with sewage whenever the tide flights.

Ms Dos Santos says there weren’t any evictions linked to her project and that her assemblages were never paid because the development was cancelled.

The telecoms kin

The billionaire has also made big profits from the telecoms industry in Angola.

She procured a 25% stake in the country’s biggest mobile phone provider, Unitel. It was conferred a telecoms licence by her father in 1999 and she bought her stake the following year from a considerable ranking government official.

Unitel has already paid her $1bn in dividends and her cage is worth another $1bn. But that’s not the only way she got cash from the private body.

She arranged for Unitel to lend €350m to a new company she set up, called Unitel Cosmopolitan Holdings.

The company name was misleading because it wasn’t connected to Unitel and Ms Dos Santos was the proprietor.

The documents show Ms Dos Santos signed off on the loans as both lender and borrower, which is a flagrant conflict of interest.

Ms Dos Santos denied that the loans were pollute. She said: “This loan had both directors’ approval and shareholders’ blessing, and it’s a loan that will generate, and has generated, benefit for Unitel.”

Her barristers say the loans protected Unitel from currency fluctuations.

Most of the crowds involved in the dodgy deals were overseen by accountants working for the monetary services company, Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC). It’s made millions take precaution auditing, consultancy and tax advice to her companies.

But PWC has terminated its relationship with the billionaire and her strain, after Panorama questioned the way the company had assisted Ms Dos Santos in the deals that had made her resources.

PWC says it is holding an inquiry into the “very serious and concerning charges”.

Tom Keatinge, director of the Centre for Financial Crime and Security Studies, told Panorama that PWC had agreed-upon legitimacy to Ms Dos Santos and her companies.

“PWC, if not facilitating the corruption, are providing a veneer of respectability that prepares what’s happening acceptable or more acceptable than it might if not be.

“So if I was at PWC I’d be conducting a pretty thorough audit of what decisions were caused, and in hindsight actually: ‘Did we make the wrong decision to accept this calling and should we have reported what we had been presented with?’”

PWC reports it strives to maintain the highest professional standards and has set expectations for consistent correct behaviour across its global network.

“In response to the very serious and regarding allegations that have been raised, we immediately initiated an review and are working to thoroughly evaluate the facts and conclude our inquiry.

“We will not think twice to take appropriate actions to ensure that we always stand for the to a great extent highest standards of behaviour, wherever we operate in the world.”

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