Angola’s former dictator’s ultra-rich daughter Isabel dos Santos faces 12 criminal charges


Angola, a nation marked by a history of political turmoil and economic challenges, is once again in the global spotlight as the ultra-rich daughter of Angola’s former president Isabel dos Santos, and her advisors are accused of defrauding the country of US$219 million, including through financial schemes which has been uncovered the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) recently uncovered the intricate details of these charges, shedding light on a series of alleged crimes that include money laundering, embezzlement, and tax fraud.

In 2020, Angolan prosecutors charged her with embezzlement and money laundering and requested Interpol issue a Red Notice calling for her provisional arrest, according to Portuguese news agency Lusa.

Last month, she lost a legal battle in London’s High Court to prevent a freeze on up to US$733 million of her assets. Dos Santos is already subject to asset freezes in several countries, including Portugal and the US.

ICIJ’s Luanda Leaks investigation was based on a trove of 715,000 documents including emails, charts, contracts, audits, and accounts that revealed how dos Santos built a business empire worth an estimated US$2 billion over two decades. The Platform to Protect Whistleblowers in Africa, an organization based in Paris, France, obtained the files and shared them with ICIJ and its partners.

Isabel dos Santos, once celebrated as Africa’s first female billionaire, finds herself at the center of a legal storm. The daughter of Angola’s former authoritarian president, dos Santos is accused of causing substantial state losses during her tenure as the head of the state-owned oil company, Sonangol. The charges, detailed in a 46-page indictment dated January 11, outline a meticulous plan to defraud the Angolan state through offshore companies, fraudulent invoices, forged documents, and questionable salary raises.

Dos Santos, who has consistently denied any wrongdoing, attributes the charges to a political vendetta. In an interview with Angolan radio station Rádio Essencial, she criticized the government’s accusations as “fabricated lies” and urged authorities to take responsibility for their actions.

The indictment reveals a pattern of deception employed by dos Santos and her associates, including Mario Silva, Sarju Raikundalia, and Paula Oliveira. Allegedly, they utilized offshore companies to siphon millions illegally in 2016 and 2017. The charges encompass a range of financial crimes, from money laundering to tax fraud, painting a damning picture of dos Santos’ tenure at Sonangol.

Dos Santos has been under investigation since 2020 when ICIJ’s Luanda Leaks exposed her involvement in lucrative deals spanning oil, diamonds, telecommunications, banking, and real estate under her father’s rule. Collaborating with accountants, lawyers, and consultants globally, dos Santos and her late husband built a vast empire, prompting legal actions in multiple countries.

PwC, one of the world’s largest accounting firms, is also implicated in the scandal. Executives from PwC’s Luanda and Lisbon offices are accused of profiting from auditing contracts and consultancy deals with dos Santos’ shell companies. The firm, already under scrutiny by Portuguese authorities, launched an internal investigation in 2020 following the revelations.

Angolan prosecutors assert that dos Santos and her associates caused the state to lose $219 million through unduly paid salaries, loss-making sales, tax fraud, and fraudulent payments to shell companies. Dos Santos, during her tenure at Sonangol, reportedly assigned herself an exorbitant monthly salary, surpassing her predecessors by nearly US$19,000.

As the trial against dos Santos looms, the prosecution alleges that she and her allies acted deliberately to defraud and damage the Angolan state, enriching themselves illegally. Dos Santos’ legal team, led by lawyer Dan Morrison, maintains her innocence and emphasizes her ongoing efforts to clear her name through court proceedings in various jurisdictions.

Dos Santos faces legal challenges on multiple fronts. In 2020, Angolan prosecutors charged her with embezzlement and money laundering, leading to an Interpol Red Notice request for her provisional arrest. Recent developments include a loss in London’s High Court, where a freeze on up to US$733 million of her assets was upheld. Asset freezes in several countries, including Portugal and the US, further compound her legal troubles.

Isabel dos Santos’ legal saga underscores the complexities of unraveling financial scandals involving powerful figures. As Angola seeks justice for alleged misdeeds that span decades, the case against dos Santos serves as a cautionary tale about the challenges of holding the wealthy and influential accountable. As the trial unfolds, the international community watches closely, waiting to see whether dos Santos will face the consequences of the accusations that have tarnished her reputation and brought her vast business empire into question.



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