Isabel dos Santos
Interpol issued a red notice asking global law enforcement agencies to locate and provisionally arrest her pending extradition, surrender or similar legal actions Photo: EPA/BRUNO FONSECA

Lisbon vetoes hotel linked to disgraced businesswoman Isabel dos Santos

Mayor confirms hotel plan “will not be discussed again”

Mayor of Lisbon Carlos Moedas has said the plan for a new hotel in the city suspected of having links to Angolan businesswoman Isabel dos Santoswanted by Interpol for alleged financial crimes on a potentially massive scale.

Mr Moedas confirmed yesterday that he has “withdrawn the proposal. The proposal is not going to the chamber for debate. There is no proposal…” 

Internally, the fact that the proposal had gone as far as it had is a cause for hot debate among city councillors.

To these Mr Moedas stressed: “I am not a policeman”, but he acknowledged that more has to be done “in transparency and combatting corruption”. 

Earlier this month the Novos Tempos coalition mayor, representing PSD/CDS-PP, MPT/PPM and Aliança parties proposed a corruption office within the council – now he is pondering “a vetting questionnaire, alluding to what is now required of the members of the government”, writes Lusa, in order to weed out potential situations just like this one.

The proposal, which goes back to 2019 (the point where it was first submitted to Lisbon City Council) intended to transform a residential building in the heart of Lisbon into a “tourist development, consisting of 22 five-star tourist flats and a commercial establishment on the ground floor”.

The company behind it – H33 – Sociedade Imobiliária – is reportedly held by Vasco Rites “who is known for his connections to Isabel dos Santos”, say reports (Ms Santos having been known as “Africa’s richest woman” with the bulk of her fortune made during the years her father was president of Angola).

The fact that it has taken this long for the hotel plan to be ‘dumped’, is worrying, admits Mr Moedas. But at least now the decision has been made.

The news comes as in the wider sphere the doubts raised by former governor of Portugal’s central bank, Carlos Costa, in the book “The Governor” are back gathering momentum.

Mr Costa told author Luís Rocha that prime minister António Costa had tried to intervene in a decision to remove Ms dos Santos from the board of BIC bank (precisely because of the suspicions of corruption surrounding her).

According to Carlos Costa, Isabel dos Santos was furious at his attempts to oust her, to the point she complained to the prime minister.

He in turn apparently contacted Carlos Costa, with the message that: “One cannot treat badly  the daughter of the President of a country that is a friend of Portugal.” 

Carlos Costa however stuck to his guns, recalling that the time “was not the easiest” in his life, “and made me fear for my safety”.

When “The Governor” came out, António Costa insisted Carlos Costa’s memory was betraying him – and that his declarations were “offensive to my good name, my honour and consideration. I have contacted Dr Carlos Costa, who has not retracted (what he said) nor apologised, and therefore my lawyer will be taking the adequate legal steps”.

Since then, nothing has been written about the adequate legal steps. 

But what the incident did do was goad opposition PSD into ‘demanding an explanation’.

A set of 12 questions was sent to António Costa in November, and he took until last week to respond – “unsatisfactorily” in the PSD’s opinion, hence renewed pressure to pin him down.

PSD parliamentary leader Joquim Sarmento Miranda has told reporters: “The prime minister took 60 days to answer the PSD’s questions, we have the right, in a considered and serene way, to analyse the prime minister’s text and consider whether we should not repeat some questions again and possibly ask new ones.

“We do not exclude any parliamentary mechanism, we do not exclude the commission of enquiry. The most likely thing, at this stage, is that there is room for the prime minister to have a second opportunity to enlighten the Portuguese, given that in this first one he clarified little or nothing.”

Mr Costa initial response was that he had never approached the Bank of Portugalor anyone else” to intervene in favour of the suitability of Angolan businesswoman Isabel dos Santos as a corporate director of BPI – and only acted to try to resolve the shareholder blockade in the bank, in which she had a stake at the time.

[email protected]