Isabel dos Santos: Angola vows to repatriate her over looted public funds

Angolan prosecutors vowed on Monday to use “all possible” means to bring back billionaire Isabel dos Santos, the daughter of the country’s former president, after thousands of leaked documents revealed new allegations she siphoned off hundreds of millions in public money.

Dubbed Africa’s richest woman, dos Santos is accused of using her father’s backing to plunder state funds from the oil-rich but impoverished southern African country and — with the help of Western consulting firms — move the money offshore.

She stopped living in Angola after her authoritarian father Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who ruled the country for nearly 40 years, stepped down in 2017 for his anointed successor Joao Lourenco.

She now spends her time between London and Dubai.

“We will use all possible means and activate international mechanisms to bring Isabel dos Santos back to the country,” prosecutor general Helder Pitra Gros told public radio.

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“We have asked for international support from Portugal, Dubai and other countries,” he added.

The 46-year-old dos Santos is already being investigated as part of an anti-graft campaign launched by Lourenco, who has vowed to root out corruption.

Prosecutors last month froze bank accounts and holdings owned by the businesswoman and her Congolese-Danish husband Sindika Dokolo, a move dos Santos described as motivated by a groundless political vendetta.

Gros’ remarks came after a trove of 715,000 files dubbed the “Luanda Leaks” on Sunday revealed how the eldest daughter of the former president allegedly moved the vast sums into overseas assets.

The award-winning New York-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) behind the release alleged the international system has allowed powerful individuals like her to move assets around the world, without questions.

“Based on a trove of more than 715,000 files, our investigation highlights a broken international regulatory system that allows professional services firms to serve the powerful with almost no questions asked,” the ICIJ wrote.

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The group said its team of 120 reporters in 20 countries was able to trace “how an army of Western financial firms, lawyers, accountants, government officials and management companies helped (dos Santos and Dokolo) hide assets from tax authorities”.

Dos Santos took to Twitter on Monday to refute the claims, launching a salvo of around 30 tweets in Portuguese and English, accusing journalists involved in the investigation of telling “lies”.

“My fortune is built on my character, my intelligence, education, capacity for work, perseverance,” she wrote.

“This is what I do ! I build companies and enterprises, I invest and create jobs. This where my wealth comes from : BUSINESSES”, she wrote in another tweet, asking her 82,500 followers to watch an accompanying video on how she built Candando, her supermarket.

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Born in Baku, Azerbaijan, and educated in Britain, dos Santos — scornfully nicknamed “the princess” — was named Africa’s first female billionaire in 2013 by Forbes, which estimates her current wealth at $2.1 billion.

Her lawyer dismissed the ICIJ findings as a “highly coordinated attack” orchestrated by Angola’s current rulers, in a statement quoted by The Guardian newspaper.

Dos Santos herself told BBC Africa the file dump was part of a “witch hunt” meant to discredit her and her father.

She headed Angola’s national oil company Sonangol until her father’s successor forced her out after becoming president in 2017.