Dictator’s daughter and bandit queen of Africa


As many more corruption charges against Isabel dos Dantos are expected to emerge in the next few months, it is still a question – shall the legal system finally be able to put this African bandit queen behind the bars? Shall a cruel dictator and looter like Eduard dos Santos face the music as well?

Following publication of FinCEN Files by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), the billion-dollar empire of African-nation Angola’s former dictator’s daughter has started falling, although, Isabel dos Santos has denied having made transfers associated with her family or being involved in any sort of financial crimes or corruption. She even went further stating the allegations and investigations against her were “defamatory”.

A statement sent on her behalf said: “Isabel dos Santos has never made transfers associated ‘with her family’, this allegation being false and defamatory”. The statement further said, “Isabel dos Santos is an independent businesswoman, and there is no association between her business and her family”.

The same statement has also made a foul attempt of defaming ICIJ by stating its FinCEN investigation was partnered by Portuguese newspaper Expresso, owned by the Impresa group.

According to the investigation, Isabel dos Santos, the daughter of José Eduardo dos Santos, a former president of Angola, “was the subject of two reports on suspicious activities in 2013 in the United States, one from JP Morgan and the other from Standard Chartered,” due to “transfers linked to Unitel and the diamond business in which Sindika Dokolo [her husband] was a partner of the Angolan state.”

According to ICIJ, the report, which is dozens of pages long, was concluded on 16 October 2013 by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network of the US Treasury Department.

The statement issued on behalf of Ms. Santos further said that neither “Isabel dos Santos or her companies have never been clients of any US bank,” saying that “it is completely false and defamatory that a US bank” has helped the businesswoman “in transfers associated with her family or the Angolan state.” It notes that JP Morgan, “as the correspondent bank of BFA/BPI,” makes requests for “regular compliance, requesting information on various transactions and from various clients of the bank,” and argues that this to be an “absolutely normal” practice.

Dos Santos and her husband, it goes on, “are not part of any illegal and/or illegitimate scheme to circulate funds in the international or US banking system”; it rejects the “falsehoods and news that are regurgitated and without foundation.”

Meanwhile, the report, according to Expresso, lists 26 entities and people – including Isabel dos Santos, Sindika Dokolo and José Eduardo dos Santos – who could be related parties, including Portugal’s Galp Energia, in which she long had an indirect stake.

“In all, the bank identified a total of $829 million in transfers between 2005 and 2013 related to the universe of these entities, but set aside the overwhelming majority of them and focused on reviewing only a few tens of millions,” the Expresso article reads.

Movements made between 3 July 2006 and 2 March 2012 from accounts controlled by Dokolo to correspondent accounts of foreign banks at JP Morgan were identified.

The investigation involves more than 2,000 confidential bank documents – referred to as the FinCEN Files – obtained by BuzzFeed News and shared with ICIJ, which are said to reveal how some of the world’s largest banks, including HSBC, have been used in fraud cases.

Legal actions against Isabel dos Santos

Acofin Agency on December 10, 2020 reported: Isabel dos Santos, daughter of former Angolan President Eduardo dos Santos, has just suffered another financial blow. She loses control of Vidatel, a telecom operator registered in the British Virgin Islands.

Through Vidatel, the Angolan businesswoman held a 25% stake in the Angolan mobile operator Unitel. These shares had been placed under judicial supervision by Angola after investigations were opened against her.

The shares were confiscated by the Supreme Court of the British Virgin Islands. The institution appointed court administrators to manage these assets and all related bank accounts. They will also control Vidatel’s interest in Unitel, including the rights inherent to such interest, namely Vidatel’s voting and representation rights at Unitel’s shareholders’ meetings and Vidatel’s right to receive past dividends and futures contracts.

The loss of control of Vidatel by Isabel dos Santos occurred after the freezing of her bank accounts in Angola in January 2020, followed one month later by the freezing of her bank accounts in Portugal. In April 2020, the businesswoman lost her shares in the Portuguese telecom operator NOS, which were seized by the courts.

Angolan mobile operator sued Isabel

Angola’s largest mobile phone provider has sued a company controlled by billionaire Isabel dos Santos after it stopped repaying loans following a cash crisis deepened by the Luanda Leaks investigation.

In paperwork filed in a London court in October, Unitel alleged that dos Santos’ Dutch company, Unitel International Holdings BV, or UIH, defaulted on loans issued from 2012 to 2013. Unitel is seeking the immediate repayment of more than $430 million.

Unitel is one of Angola’s most visible companies with an estimated nine million customers. Dos Santos was Unitel’s chair at the time of the loans, which were used to fund a shopping spree in telecommunications companies across the Lusophone world. UIH snapped up stakes in Portugal, Cape Verde and Sao Tome & Principe, according to Unitel’s complaint, which was shared by Law360.

Unitel alleges that UIH, which despite the name has no corporate connection to Unitel, first fell behind on interest repayments in September 2019. According to the mobile phone operator, UIH missed increasingly more valuable repayments in February and August 2020 following the publication of the Luanda Leaks investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

The story of an African bandit queen

Isabel dos Santos has built her empire across sectors: from an investment in a beach bar to stakes in oil, banking, finances and telecommunications, proved businesswoman. Her career as an entrepreneur would have been inspiring if it wasn’t for the fact that her father, José Eduardo dos Santos, was a dictator in Angola for 38 years. Dos Santos had access to high-powered networks and riches fueled by public funds amassed by her father during his tenure. While she created her own multibillion-dollar empire, the Luanda Leaks – documents mined by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists – show how Dos Santos used tax consultants, lawyers and accountants to siphon millions out of Angola. Today, her empire is finally crumbling as she faces allegations of corruption, money laundering, and fraud.

Yet, the African billionaire woman possibly has neither any worries or shame as she is seen extremely active on social media putting up a brave front. She has been posting pictures of her youngest son and, up until recently, family vacations with her late husband, a Congolese businessman, Sindika Dokolo, who also is implicated in corruption charges and who dies suddenly in October this year while free-diving in Dubai.

In some of the photos posted on social media, her father Eduard José is seen spending joyous time with his grandchildren in Barcelona, Spain.

José moved to Europe in 2017 after falling ill and experiencing an increasingly hostile public environment. According to media reports, he was under the impression his retirement would be peaceful, but he was in for a rude awakening as his successor, João Lourenço, who has embarked on a vigorous anti-corruption drive.

Soon after Lourenço came into power, his public declarations of tackling corruption seemed directed towards the Dos Santos family. In one particular address, Lourenço said his government would crackdown on those who had used public funds to set up private investments. His statement was a thinly-veiled warning to Dos Santos whose business empire had been widely documented for 20 years. American business magazine Forbes had also consistently called Dos Santos ‘the richest woman in Africa’, listing her multiple businesses valued at $2,1bn.

In September 2018, Angolan President Lourenço became more blatant in his approach, saying that “the corruption, nepotism, flattery and impunity” of recent years was “enemy number one”.

Following the declaration of war against corruption by the Angolan president, the former dictator Eduard José soon left for Barcelona on a private jet. Commentators said that was the final straw in a very fragile relationship between the two leaders as Lourenço begged his predecessor to stay. José has not been back to Angola since and is said to avoid any meetings and political commitments hosted by the MPLA (the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola, which José once led).

In Angola, Eduard José’s first son José Filomeno was sacked from the Angolan sovereign wealth fund. He is facing fraud charges and in unable to leave Luanda as a result.

Another daughter of Eduard, Welwitschia dos Santos left the country for Europe after she was removed as a member of parliament due to unjust enrichment. Justifying her fleeing the Angola, Welwitschia dos Santos said she feared for her life.

The nightmare of the African bandit queen began at the beginning of 2020 when International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) dropped ‘Luanda Leaks’ bomb. This rocking investigation was done by ICIJ and its partners in 20 countries. The New York Times, BBC, The Namibian and Expresso from Brazil are some of the publications which contributed.

The investigation lifts the lid on how Dos Santos amassed her fortunes, laying bare a complex system of offshore accounts and registered companies in about 42 countries around the world. Journalists and investigators poured over 700,000 documents, connecting the dots on how Dos Santos was able to hide and divert her riches – which were essentially taxpayer funds. Some of the shell companies were used as vehicles to store millions and avoid tax penalties, and the ICIJ also reported that advisory firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) was paid $1m to help Dos Santos stash funds.

Is it an end of Isabel dos Santos saga?

The year has ended on a grim note for Dos Santos and her family, as her husband died on 29 October during a diving accident in Dubai. He, too, was facing corruption charges for his African art collection – reportedly the largest in the world – and other charges relating to his business dealings with his wife.

Though Dos Santos is in mourning, she has proclaimed her innocence and denies any wrongdoing. She often takes to Instagram to counter accusations and respond to media reports of her dwindling empire. According to The Guardian, she is in possession of three properties in London worth £24m, a super yacht worth £29.5m, a £50m Monaco property, Candando supermarkets in Angola, stakes in Swiss jewellery maker De Grisogono, a slice of oil and gas company Galp worth £12,9bn, and properties in Dubai and Lisbon.

With the help of her father, the former dictator of Angola, Isabel dos Santos has made tons of money possibly in the simplest ever manner as she had the opportunity of using public money as well as tons of dirty money of her father. Below are the list of her companies worldwide:

Belize – Allinmotion Holdings Limited
British Virgin Islands – Five companies in financial and consumer industries
Switzerland – Five enterprises
Italy – De Grisogono Italia Srl
United Kingdom – De Grisogono UK Limited
United States of America – De Grisogono USA Inc.
Luxembourg – Four companies
Malta – 13 companies
Netherlands  – 28 enterprises
Madeira – Nine companies
Cyprus – Two companies
Angola – 93 companies
Portugal – 134 companies
Mauritius – Saguaro Management
Mozambique – Two enterprises
Mauritius – Two companies
Dubai – Africo Retail International DMCC
Cabo Verde – Six companies
Spain – 17 companies
South Africa – EFAS
São Tomé e Príncipe – Unitel STP S.A.R.L.
Hong Kong – Four companies
One company was registered in Morocco, Guinea Bissau, São Tomé e Príncipe, Ireland, Japan, Gibraltar, Isle of Man, Thailand, Gibraltar, Liechtenstein, Namibia, France, Czech Republic, Romania, Austria, Gambia and Singapore
Azores – Two enterprises
Brazil – Four companies.

As many more corruption charges against Isabel dos Dantos are expected to emerge in the next few months, it is still a question – shall the legal system finally be able to put this African bandit queen behind the bars? Shall a cruel dictator and looter like Eduard dos Santos face the music as well?


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