An official suspect in a case alleging multi-million dollar fraud and money-laundering, Isabel dos Santos is unlikely to profit in any way from the pending sale of Portuguese-Angolan bank Eurobic to Spanish lender Abanca.
Governor of the Bank of Portugal Carlos Costa has affirmed this in parliament, answering questions over how it was possible for Portugal to have so much ‘exposure’ to Ms dos Santos in the first place.
But his answer didn’t totally convince MPs as he appeared to leave the responsibility of holding on to the funds with ‘judicial authorities’.
These authorities “will want to preserve the value associated with these shares”, he said. “It doesn’t mean they will block the transactions but safeguard the proceeds of the transactions”, he added, concluding: “It is not for us (the Bank of Portugal) to take a position”.
Prime minister António Costa later said he thought very much that it was for the Bank of Portugal to take a position, and there followed less than complementary debate about the leader of the central bank who reaches the end of an extremely troubled mandate in a few months time.
But as to the destination of the purported 200 million dollars that Abanca will be paying for the shares of Ms dos Santos and her Portuguese business associate Fernando Teles, this looks very unlikely to be with either of them. Ms dos Santos has been vilified in the media since the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) released their damning Luanda Leaks dossier in January (click here).
It has to be stressed that Ms dos Santos continues to denounce all the stories as ‘false’ claiming they are a form of political witch hunt.
Nonetheless, earlier this week the Angolan government formally launched a civil action against Ms dos Santos in Luanda Provincial Court in a bid to recover $1 billion it says she and her associates owe the country.
With the whereabouts of Ms dos Santos and her husband and business partner Sindika Dokolo ‘unclear’, Bloco de Esquerda claims the fact that the sale of Eurobic is going ahead at all is a form of ‘money-laundering’, in that Abanca will find itself owning something that had been originally purchased with dirty money.
Says the latest blog posting from the ICIJ, parliament’s Left Bloc alliance leader, Catarina Martins, “has called on authorities to halt the sale, describing dos Santos’ assets as the “money of a kleptocracy.”
Meantime Carlos Costa’s questioning did air one salient point: Portugal’s exposure isn’t anything like the 570 million euros cited by Expresso last month (click here).
It is “significantly lower”, said Costa – failing to give any further details.