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

Isabel dos Santos attends the screening of "BlacKkKlansman" during the 71st annual Cannes Film Festival at Palais des Festivals on May 14, 2018 in Cannes, FrancePicture copyright
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Leaked paperwork reveal how Africa’s richest lady made her fortune by exploiting her personal nation, and corruption.

Isabel dos Santos received entry to profitable offers involving land, oil, diamonds and telecoms when her father was president of Angola, a southern African nation wealthy in pure sources.

The paperwork present how she and her husband had been allowed to purchase priceless state property in a collection of suspicious offers.

Ms Dos Santos says the allegations in opposition to her are totally false and a politically motivated witch-hunt by the Angolan authorities.

The previous president’s daughter has made the UK her residence and owns costly properties in central London.

She is already below felony investigation by the authorities in Angola for corruption and her property within the nation have been frozen.

Now BBC Panorama has been given entry to greater than 700,000 leaked paperwork concerning the billionaire’s enterprise empire.

Most had been obtained by the Platform to Shield Whistle-blowers in Africa and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

They have been investigated by 37 media organisations together with The Guardian and Portugal’s L’Espresso newspaper.

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Thirty per cent of Angolans reside in poverty on lower than $2 a day

Andrew Feinstein, the pinnacle of Corruption Watch, says the paperwork present how Ms Dos Santos exploited her nation on the expense of unusual Angolans.

“Each time she seems on the quilt of some shiny journal someplace on the earth, each time that she hosts certainly one of her glamorous events within the south of France, she is doing so by trampling on the aspirations of the residents of Angola.”

The ICIJ have known as the paperwork The Luanda Leaks.

The oil connection

Some of the suspicious offers was run from London by a UK subsidiary of the Angolan state oil firm Sonangol.

Ms Dos Santos had been put answerable for the struggling Sonangol in 2016, due to a presidential decree from her father Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who stored a good grip on his nation for the 38 years he was in energy.

However when he retired as president in September 2017 her place was quickly below risk, regardless that his hand-picked successor got here from the identical get together. Ms Dos Santos was sacked two months later.

Many Angolans have been stunned on the method that President Joao Lourenço has gone after the enterprise pursuits of his predecessor’s household.

Buildings along the Marginal promenade called avenida 4 de fevereiro, Luanda

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Angola in numbers

  • $4,170common revenue, however this masks huge disparities

  • 30%of inhabitants reside in poverty – lower than $1.90/day

  • 2ndlargest oil producer in Africa. Additionally main diamond producer

Supply: World Financial institution, Opec

The leaked paperwork present that as she left Sonangol, Ms Dos Santos accredited $58m of suspicious funds to a consultancy firm in Dubai known as Matter Enterprise Options.

She says she has no monetary curiosity in Matter, however the leaked paperwork reveal it was run by her enterprise supervisor and owned by a pal.

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

Ms Dos Santos seems to have accredited funds to her pal’s firm after she was sacked.

Though some consultancy work had been carried out by Matter, there’s little or no element on the invoices to justify such giant payments.

One asks for €472,196 for unspecified bills, one other asks for $928,517 for unspecified authorized companies.

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

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These are among the invoices Isabel dos Santos signed off in her final week at Sonangol

Attorneys for Matter Enterprise Options say it was introduced in to assist restructure the oil business in Angola, and that the invoices had been for work that had already been carried out by different consultancy firms it had employed.

“Relating to the invoices associated with bills, it is not uncommon for consultancy firms so as to add bills to invoices as a normal merchandise. That is usually as a consequence of these bills involving giant quantities of paperwork… Matter can produce documentary proof to verify all bills incurred.”

Ms Dos Santos’s legal professionals stated her actions with regard to the Matter funds had been totally lawful and that she had not authorised funds after she had been dismissed from Sonangol.

They stated: “All invoices paid had been in relation to companies contracted and agreed between the 2 events, below a contract that was accredited with the complete data and approval of the Sonangol Board of Administrators.”

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Media captionIsabel dos Santos: “I remorse that Angola has chosen this path”

The ICIJ and Panorama have additionally uncovered new particulars concerning the enterprise offers that made Ms Dos Santos wealthy.

A lot of her fortune is predicated on her possession of a stake within the Portuguese vitality firm Galp, which certainly one of her firms purchased from Sonangol in 2006.

The paperwork present it solely needed to pay 15% of the value upfront and that the remaining €63m ($70m) was was a low-interest mortgage from Sonangol.

Beneath the beneficiant phrases of the mortgage, her debt to the Angolan folks did not should be repaid for 11 years.

Her stake in Galp is now price greater than €750m.

Ms Dos Santos’s firm did provide to repay the Sonangol mortgage in 2017.

The reimbursement provide ought to have been rejected as a result of it did not embody nearly €9m of curiosity owing.

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Financial institution orders signed by Isabel dos Santos transferred nearly $58m out of the Angolan state oil firm

However Ms Dos Santos was answerable for Sonangol on the time and he or she accepted the cash as full cost of her personal debt.

She was fired six days later and the cost was returned by the brand new Sonangol administration.

Ms Dos Santos says she initiated the acquisition of the stake in Galp, and that Sonangol made cash from the deal as nicely.

“There’s completely no wrongdoing in any of these transactions. This funding is the funding that in historical past has generated probably the most profit for the nationwide oil firm and all of the contracts that had been drafted are completely authorized contracts, there aren’t any wrongdoings.”

Her legal professionals say the reimbursement provide in 2017 lined what Sonangol had indicated was owed.

The diamond connection

It is a related story within the diamond business.

Ms Dos Santos’s husband, Sindika Dokolo, signed a one-sided settlement in 2012 with Angolan state diamond firm Sodiam.

They had been purported to be 50-50 companions in a deal to purchase a stake within the Swiss luxurious jeweller De Grisogono.

But it surely was funded by the state firm. The paperwork present that 18 months after the deal, Sodiam had put $79m into the partnership, whereas Mr Dokolo had solely invested $4m. Sodiam additionally awarded him a €5m success charge for brokering the deal, so he did not have to make use of any of his personal cash.

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Isabel dos Santos and her husband Sindika Dokolo can usually be seen at movie premieres and festivals with the world’s stars

The diamond deal will get even worse for the Angolan folks.

The paperwork reveal how Sodiam borrowed all of the money from a personal financial institution, de Grisogono, through which Ms Dos Santos is the most important shareholder.

Sodiam has to pay 9% curiosity and the mortgage was assured by a presidential decree from her father, so Ms Dos Santos’s financial institution can’t lose out.

Bravo da Rosa, the brand new chief government of Sodiam, instructed Panorama that the Angolan folks hadn’t received a single greenback again from the deal: “In the long run, when now we have completed paying again this mortgage, Sodiam could have misplaced greater than $200m.”

The previous president additionally gave Ms Dos Santos’s husband the proper to purchase a few of Angola’s uncooked diamonds.

Who’s Isabel dos Santos?

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  • Eldest daughter of ex-President Jose Eduardo dos Santos
  • Married to Congolese artwork collector and businessman Sindika Dokolo
  • Educated in UK, the place she presently lives
  • Reported to be Africa’s richest lady, with a fortune of some $2bn
  • Has stakes in oil and cell phone firms and banks, principally in Angola and Portugal

Supply: Forbes journal and others

Learn extra: Africa’s richest woman eyes Angolan presidency

The Angolan authorities says the diamonds had been bought at a knockdown value and sources have instructed Panorama that just about $1bn could have been misplaced.

Ms Dos Santos instructed the BBC she could not remark as a result of she is just not a shareholder of de Grisogono.

However the leaked paperwork present that she is described as a shareholder of de Grisogono by her personal monetary advisers.

Mr Dokolo did put in some cash later. His legal professionals say he invested $115m and that the takeover of de Grisogono was his thought. They are saying his firm paid above the market price for the uncooked diamonds.

The land connection

The leaked paperwork additionally reveal how Ms Dos Santos purchased land from the state in September 2017. As soon as once more she solely needed to pay a small up-front charge.

Her firm purchased a sq. kilometre of prime beachfront land within the capital Luanda with the assistance of presidential decrees signed by her father.

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Angolan state oil firm Sonangol has a subsidiary in London the place suspicious offers passed off

The contract says the land was price $96m, however the paperwork present her firm paid solely 5% of that after agreeing to speculate the remainder within the growth.

Panorama traced among the unusual Angolans who had been evicted to make method for the Futungo growth.

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Media captionResident describes life subsequent to an open sewer in Angola

They have been moved from the Luandan seafront to an remoted housing growth 30 miles (50km) from the capital.

Teresa Vissapa misplaced her enterprise to Ms Dos Santos’ growth and is now struggling to deliver up her seven kids.

She stated: “I solely ask God to make her assume just a little extra about our state of affairs. Possibly she does not even comprehend it, however we’re struggling.”

Ms Dos Santos declined to touch upon the Futungo growth.

But it surely was not the one land deal involving Ms Dos Santos that displaced the native inhabitants.

About 500 households had been evicted from one other stretch of the Luandan seafront after Isabel dos Santos received concerned in one other main redevelopment venture.

The households are actually residing in determined situations subsequent to an open sewer. A few of their shacks are flooded with sewage each time the tide rises.

Ms Dos Santos says there weren’t any evictions linked to her venture and that her firms had been by no means paid as a result of the event was cancelled.

The telecoms connection

The billionaire has additionally made huge earnings from the telecoms business in Angola.

She acquired a 25% stake within the nation’s largest cell phone supplier, Unitel. It was granted a telecoms licence by her father in 1999 and he or she purchased her stake the next yr from a excessive rating authorities official.

Unitel has already paid her $1bn in dividends and her stake is price one other $1bn. However that is not the one method she received money from the non-public firm.

She organized for Unitel to lend €350m to a brand new firm she arrange, known as Unitel Worldwide Holdings.

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The leaked paperwork present Isabel dos Santos signed off on loans from Unitel as each the borrower and the lender

The corporate title was deceptive as a result of it wasn’t related to Unitel and Ms Dos Santos was the proprietor.

The paperwork present Ms Dos Santos signed off on the loans as each lender and borrower, which is a blatant battle of curiosity.

Ms Dos Santos denied that the loans had been corrupt. She stated: “This mortgage had each administrators’ approval and shareholders’ approval, and it is a mortgage that may generate, and has generated, profit for Unitel.”

Her legal professionals say the loans protected Unitel from forex fluctuations.

A lot of the firms concerned within the dodgy offers had been overseen by accountants working for the monetary companies firm, Worth Waterhouse Coopers (PWC). It is made thousands and thousands offering auditing, consultancy and tax recommendation to her firms.

However PWC has terminated its relationship with the billionaire and her household, after Panorama questioned the way in which the corporate had assisted Ms Dos Santos within the offers that had made her wealthy.

PWC says it’s holding an inquiry into the “very critical and regarding allegations”.

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Tom Keatinge, director of the Centre for Monetary Crime and Safety Research, criticised PWC for giving the corruption a “veneer of respectability”

Tom Keatinge, director of the Centre for Monetary Crime and Safety Research, instructed Panorama that PWC had given legitimacy to Ms Dos Santos and her firms.

“PWC, if not facilitating the corruption, are offering a veneer of respectability that makes what’s occurring acceptable or extra acceptable than it would in any other case be.

“So if I used to be at PWC I would be conducting a fairly thorough audit of what selections had been made, and in hindsight really: ‘Did we make the improper choice to simply accept this enterprise and will now we have reported what we had been introduced with?'”

PWC says it strives to keep up the best skilled requirements and has set expectations for constant moral behaviour throughout its international community.

“In response to the very critical and regarding allegations which have been raised, we instantly initiated an investigation and are working to completely consider the info and conclude our inquiry.

“We is not going to hesitate to take applicable actions to make sure that we all the time stand for the very highest requirements of behaviour, wherever we function on the earth.”

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