Government refuses to comment on Angola’s seizure of accounts and businesses of ‘Africa’s richest woman’

Government refuses to comment on Angola’s seizure of accounts and businesses of ‘Africa’s richest woman’

The Portuguese government has refused to comment on the seizure by Angolan authorities last week of personal bank accounts held by Isabel dos Santos – previously dubbed Africa’s richest woman – and two business partners (one of which is her husband).

But head of diplomacy Augusto Santos Silva has stressed that Portugal maintains “cooperation with Angola in all areas, including the repatriation of capital sums.

It was only a few days before Christmas that Ms dos Santos – the daughter of former long-term president of Angola Eduardo dos Santos – was seen to be suing former MEP Ana Gomes for implying that she was a money-laundress.

Now, the spat may be far from Ms dos Santos’ agenda as she sees her empire in Angola ‘impounded’ from all sides.

Not only have her personal bank accounts been frozen, but so have the assets of nine businesses she holds stakes in.

Said the BBC last week: “The seizure appears to be part of an anti-corruption drive… the administration of President Joao Lourenço is seeking to recover $1bn (£760m) it says it is owed by Isabel dos Santos and her associates”.

President Lourenço took power in Angola in 2017, whereupon he swiftly sacked Ms dos Santos from running State oil company Sonangol – a position given to her only the year before by her father.

In a statement Ms dos Santos has condemned what she described as a “politically motivated attack” against her.

For Angolans, says the BBC, this is the point where they are “waiting to see if one alleged kleptocracy will simply be replaced by another, or whether as many hope, this vast oil-rich but impoverished nation is now serious about reforms and justice”.

But how badly Ms dos Santos has really been affected, on a personal level, is unclear.

Says Expresso, she has been living in a luxurious area of tax haven Dubai since last summer, and maintains (financial) structures in Malta and Holland.

Ms dos Santos “assumed Russian citizenship and nationality” last year – so very possibly couldn’t even be extradited to Angola if such a situation arose.

With regard to business dealings in Portugal, Isabel dos Santos holds shares in Galp and Efacec (energy companies), Nos (telecommunications) and EuroBic (bank).

She recently told Público that she cannot see any reason for Angola to try and impound her business dealings over here, as the seizures in place in Angola already cover over €2 billion.

Nonetheless, TVI 24 reported on Friday that the Bank of Portugal has ordered an inspection into ‘money-laundering’ with respect to EuroBic.

Ms dos Santos meantime stresses that the situation in Angola constitutes a ‘death sentence’ for her companies there.

Never at a loss for words, former euro MP Ana Gomes has given an interview where she claims “there are many people in Portugal complicit in the ransacking of wealth from Angola”

Talking to Rádio Observador shortly after Ms dos Santos’ assets were seized, Ana Gomes said all manner of authorities in Portugal – not simply supervision by ‘banking regulators’ including the Bank of Portugal – have “closed their eyes” to the money-laundering ongoing in Portugal through various companies and business arrangements.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com