Leaked documents revealed how the richest woman in Africa had amassed vast wealth through corruption and the exploitation of her country.
Isabelle dos Santos won lucrative contracts in the fields of oil, diamonds, real estate and phone calls when her father headed Angola, an African country rich in natural resources.
The documents showed how she and her husband were allowed to purchase expensive government assets through a series of suspicious contracts.
But Isabel denies these charges for herself and says they (that is, the charges) are incorrect and is a politically motivated campaign by the Angolan government.
It is noteworthy that the daughter of the former Angolan president now resides in Britain, where she bought a number of high-end properties in the heart of the capital, London.
Isabelle is under investigation by the Angolan authorities on charges of corruption, while Angola has frozen its funds.
Now, the BBC has had the opportunity to view more than 700,000 leaked documents related to the details of the Malian billionaire’s financial empire.
These documents were obtained by a forum for the protection of whistle-blowers in Africa, who in turn reported to the International Federation of Investigative Journalists ( ICIJ) on her.
The documents were verified by 37 media organizations, including the British Guardian and Portuguese espresso newspapers, as well as the New York Times.
Andrew Feinstein of the organization says Corruption WatchSpecialized in corruption monitoring The leaked documents show how Isabelle dos Santos exploited her country at the expense of ordinary Angolan citizens.
“Every time she appears on the cover of a magazine in a country, and every time she performs one of her extravagant parties in southern France, she does these things by trampling on the ambitions of the Angolan people,” Feinstein said.
As for the International Federation of Investigative Journalists, the documents were called “Luanda leaks” ( Luanda Leaks).
Relationship to oil
One of the most suspicious contracts was concluded through a British company in London belonging to the Angolan National Oil Company (Sonangol).
Isabel had appointed a director of Sonangol in 2016 at a time when the company was experiencing financial hardship, thanks to a presidential decree issued by her father, President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who had ruled Angola with an iron hand for 38 years.
But when he stepped down from government in September 2017, her site began to be threatened, although her father and successor belonged to the same party. Isabel was removed from the management of the National Oil Company after only two months.
Many Angolans were surprised by the new president Joao Lawrenco’s determination and his pursuit of his predecessors’ business interests.
29 million peoplepopulation
27 years oldThe duration of the civil war that the country has witnessed since its independence in 2002
4,170 dollarsAverage annual income, but there are significant differences
30%Residents live in extreme poverty for less than two dollars a day
secondThe largest oil producer in Africa, and a large diamond producer
Sources: World Bank, OPEC
The leaked documents show that, upon leaving her position in Sonangol, dos Santos approved suspicious transfers totaling $ 58 million to a consulting firm in Dubai called ( Matter Business Solutions).
Dos Santos denies having any financial interest in these transfers, but the leaked documents show that the aforementioned company is supervised by its business manager and owned by one of its friends.
Panorama found that the company sent more than 50 invoices to the Sonangol branch in London on the same day that Isabel was fired.
It appears from this that Ms. dos Santos has approved the payment of these sums to her friend’s company after her dismissal.
Although the company ( Matter Business SolutionsSome consulting work has already been carried out, but there are insufficient details in the invoices to justify these large sums.
One of the bills calls for 472,196 euros for unspecified expenses, while the other demands $ 928,517 for unspecified legal services.
Two bills – each of € 676,339.97 – related to the same activities on the same date, but Dos Santos approved them both.
The company’s lawyers say Matter Business SolutionsThe company was charged with helping to restructure the Angolan oil sector, and the bills in question related to the work already carried out by other consulting firms that had hired Sunangol.
And they added, “Regarding invoices relating to expenses, it is customary for consulting firms to add expenses as a general item. The reason for this is to avoid issuing large amounts of documents … a company ( Matter Business Solutions) Show written evidence to prove all expenses incurred. ”
As for the lawyer, Isabel dos Santos, they say that all its actions related to the payment of money to the company ( Matter Business Solutions) It is completely legal, and she has not yet approved any payments after her dismissal from the Sonangol administration.
The lawyers said, “All the bills that were paid were related to services agreed between the two parties under a contract ratified by the knowledge and approval of the Sonangol Board of Directors.”
The International Union of Investigative Journalists and the Panorama Program revealed new details regarding the commercial and financial contracts that made Isabelle dos Santos a wealthy woman.
Much of her fortune is due to her ownership of the energy company ( GalpPortuguese, which one of its companies bought from Sonangol in 2006.
The leaked documents show that the aforementioned company had to pay only 15 percent of the value ( GalpIn advance. The remaining amount (63 million euros) was transferred to a low-interest loan from Sonangol.
Under the favorable terms of this loan, she did not have to fulfill her debt to the Angolan people until 11 years later.
The value of its shares exceeds ( GalpNow 750 million euros.
The company belonging to Dos Santos had expressed its desire to repay the debt of Sonangol in 2017.
However, that offer should have been rejected because it did not include 9 million euros of interest.
However, Ms. dos Santos was responsible for the Sonangol Company at the time, and she agreed that the amount paid would be reimbursed the loan that she had made as the director of the National Oil Company.
Ms. dos Santos was fired after six days, and the new Sonangol administration returned the sum.
It says that it has initiated the purchase of stakes in the company ( Galp), And Sonangol also made a profit from this agreement.
“There is no defect in any of these transactions,” she says. “This investment is the investment that made great profits for the National Oil Company, and all the contracts that were formulated were completely legal contracts. There was never any tampering.”
Her attorneys say the 2017 loan offer was covering what Sonangol said was her return.
Relationship to diamonds
The story with the diamond sector is similar to that of the oil sector.
Mrs. dos Santos’ husband, Cindica Duculo, had signed a unilateral contract in 2012 with the Angolan National Diamond Company (Sudayam).
The two sides were supposed to share equally in a contract to buy stakes in Swiss jewelry firm De Grisogono.
But the purchase was funded by the state-run Sudayam. The documents show that Sodayam pumped $ 79 million of her money into the partnership, while Dokolo paid no more than $ 4 million. Sudayam also gave him a reward of 5 million euros for brokering the deal, so he did not spend any of his own money.
And there is more damage caused by the diamond contract for the Angolan people, the leaked documents show how Sudayam borrowed all the sums used in the deal from a private bank of its largest shareholder. Dokolo, Mrs. Dos Santos.
Sadayam was required to pay interest of 9 percent, and within the contract was a republican decree issued by Dos Santos’ father in order for the bank in question not to lose any money.
Bravo da Rosa, the new CEO of Sudayam, told the Panorama program that the Angolan people had not recovered even one dollar of the deal.
The former president also granted his daughter-in-law the right to purchase a percentage of Angolan rough diamonds.
Who is Isabelle dos Santosh?
- The eldest daughter of former Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos
- She is married to Angolan Cindica Duculo, an Angolan businessman and artist
- She was educated in Britain, where she lives now
- She is said to be the richest woman in Africa, with a fortune of nearly two billion dollars
- It has significant stakes in banks, oil and telecommunications companies, mostly in Angola and Portugal
Source: Forbes and others
The Angolan government says that these quantities of diamonds were sold at low prices, and sources said to the Panorama program that the resulting losses amounted to approximately one billion dollars.
As for Ms. dos Santos, she told the BBC that she could not comment on the matter because she was not a shareholder in de Grisogono.
However, the leaked documents showed that they had been described as contributors to de Grecogno by their financial advisors (i.e. Ms. dos Santos’ advisers).
Ducolo later contributed some of his own money to the deal, as his lawyers say he invested $ 115 million and that the acquisition of De Grisogono was the brainchild of his ideas. They say his company paid a price above the market price for rough diamonds.
What about land?
The leaked documents also revealed that Ms. dos Santos purchased land from the Angolan state in September 2017, and again, only token amounts were paid in advance for the purchase of these lands.
Her company bought a one-square kilometer of land located on the sea coast in an expensive area in the Angolan capital, Luanda, with the help of republican decrees signed by her father, the former president.
The contract states that the value of this plot is $ 96 million, but the leaked documents reveal that Ms. dos Santos has paid only 5 percent of the land’s value after agreeing to invest the remaining amount in the development of the project.
The Panorama program listened to a number of Angolan citizens who were expelled from their homes to make way for the construction of the project known as Futongo.
They were moved from the coast of Luanda to an isolated housing complex 50 km from the capital.
Teresa Vespa lost her job as a result of the Ms. dos Santos project, and she now faces many difficulties caring for her seven children.
“I only ask the Lord to make her think more about our situation,” Teresa said, “You may not know anything about the hardships we face, but we are suffering greatly.”
As for Ms. dos Santos, she declined to comment on any aspect of the Futongo project.
But this project was not the only one in which Ms. dos Santos participated and which led to the expulsion of the local population from their places of residence.
It deported another 500 families who were living land on the seaside in Luanda after Isabelle dos Santos participated in another housing project. These families are now living in difficult conditions along with an open drainage stream, and their huts are submerged with heavy wastewater as the tide rises.
Ms. dos Santos says that no forced displacement occurred in her project, and that her companies did not charge any money because the project was canceled.
Relationship to the telephone communications sector
The billionaire also made huge profits from the telecommunications sector in Angola.
It acquired a 25 percent stake in Angola’s largest mobile phone company, Unitel. Mrs. dos Santos’ father gave this company the license to operate in 1999, and the following year it bought its stake from a senior government official.
Mrs. Dos Santos earned $ 1 billion in profits from UNITEL, and her stake in the company was worth another $ 1 billion. But this is not the only method by which Ms. dos Santos obtains funds from this private company.
It managed to persuade UNITEL to lend a new company founded by (UNITEL International Holdings).
The company name was misleading, as it was not related to Lionel, but was owned by Mrs. dos Santos.
The documents show that Ms. dos Santos was signing loans from UNITEL as both the borrower and the lender, which represented a blatant conflict of interest.
However, Isabelle dos Santos denied that these loans were suspicious, and said, “This loan was approved by the managers and shareholders, and it is a loan that will – and indeed has achieved – profits for UNITEL.
Its lawyers say the loans protected UNITIL from the effects of fluctuating currency values.
It is noteworthy that most of the companies participating in these suspicious contracts were subject to the supervision of accountants working for the company (Price Waterhouse Coopers) for financial services, and this company achieved millions of profits for the tax, advisory and control services of the companies belonging to Isabel dos Santos.
But this global company ended its relationship with the billionaire and her family, after the Panorama Program questioned the ways in which Ms. dos Santos helped conclude the deals that made her a wealthy woman.
PricewaterhouseCoopers says it is investigating “these serious and disturbing charges.”
Tom Keating, director of the Center for Security and Financial Crime Studies, criticized PricewaterhouseCoopers for giving Mrs. Dos Santos and her companies “a cover of consideration and respect”.
He told Panorama, “Even if PwC was not involved in facilitating corruption, it would provide these activities with a cover of consideration that would make what is acceptable or more acceptable than it would have been if it had not existed.”
He went on to say, “So, if I were one of the officials in the company, I would have started a thorough investigation of the decisions that were taken and asked myself whether we took the wrong decision to accept cooperation with these companies and whether we should have informed what we were seeing.”
PricewaterhouseCoopers says it is tirelessly trying to maintain the highest levels of professionalism in its work and has set eyes on expectations that ensure ethical standards are followed in all its branches around the world.
The company said, “In response to the serious and disturbing allegations received, we immediately launched an investigation, and we are working to study the facts thoroughly and come up with conclusions.”
“We will not hesitate to take the necessary steps to ensure that we are committed to the highest levels of behavior everywhere we work around the world,” she added.