Africa’s richest woman, Angola’s billionaire former first daughter Isabel dos Santos, is charged with money laundering as prosecutor considers issuing international arrest warrant
- Isabel dos Santos charged with money laundering and plundering state funds
- Daughter of Angola’s ex-president is accused of amassing a personal fortune
- Prosecutors allege she used state oil firm to build her wealth, said to be $2.1bn
- International arrest warrant could be issued if she does not return to face trial
Angola’s billionaire former first daughter and ‘Africa’s richest woman’ has been charged with money laundering and fraud during her stewardship of the state-owned oil firm.
An international arrest warrant could be issued for Isabel dos Santos as officials in the capital, Luanda, move to try and bring her home to face trial for allegedly looting the country’s coffers.
Documents leaked this week alleged the daughter of ex-president Jose Eduardo dos Santos, plundered state funds to build her personal fortune, estimated at $2.1 billion.
Dos Santos is said to have got access to deals involving diamonds, oil and telecoms when her father was president.
The 46-year-old, who was born in Baku, Azerbaijan, attended Cobham Hall school in Kent and King’s College London, has lived outside Angola since her father ended his 38-rule in 2017.
Dubbed Africa’s richest woman and known as ‘the princess’, Dos Santos is accused of using her father’s backing to plunder state money from the oil-rich but poor southern African country and moving the money abroad with the help of Western firms.
Isabel dos Santos pictured with Amber Heard (left) and Cara Delevingne (right) at Cannes Film Festival in May 2014
Dos Santos with Lindsay Lohan and Harvey Weinstein at a party in Sardinia in August 2016
Investigations into Dos Santos’s 18-month tenure as Sonangol head from June 2016 were opened after her successor Carlos Saturnino raised the alarm about ‘irregular money transfers’ and other dodgy procedures.
Human rights groups have long accused the former president of stealing vast amounts of state money during his rule.
Before stepping down, he appointed his daughter head of the state oil company, Sonangol.
She stopped living in Angola after her father, who ruled the country with an iron fist for nearly four decades, stepped down in 2017 for his anointed successor Joao Lourenco.
Prosecutor general Helder Pitta Gros told a news conference late on Wednesday: ‘Isabel dos Santos is accused of mismanagement and embezzlement of funds during her tenure at Sonangol and is thus charged in the first instance with the crimes of money laundering, influence peddling, harmful management…forgery of documents, among other economic crimes.’
Dos Santos, who owns a £13million home in Kensington, West London, has 190,000 Instagram followers and is regularly photographed with celebrities.
Stars she has been seen include are Lindsay Lohan, Rita Ora, Nicole Scherzinger, Paris Hilton, Amber Heard, Cara Delevingne and disgraced film mogul Harvey Weinstein.
Isabel dos Santos, pictured between Nicole Sherzinger and Paris Hilton in Cannes in May 2018
Isabel dos Santos, reputedly Africa’s richest woman, and her husband and art collector Sindika Dokolo arrive for a ceremony at the City Hall in Porto, Portugal, in 2015
Former Angolan president Jose Eduardo dos Santos is pictured in Luanda in August 2012
Dubbed ‘the princess’ by Angolans, Dos Santos was named Africa’s richest woman by Forbes in 2013 and the magazine estimated her assets at $2.1 billion.
Among many Angolans, her wealth and privileged status have earned her the nickname of ‘The Princess’.
Gros said dos Santos was among five suspects, all of whom were currently residing abroad. He added: ‘At the moment, the concern is to notify and get them to voluntarily come to justice.’
Angolan news agency Angop said the prosecutor, who travelled to Lisbon on Thursday, had spoken of the possibility of an international warrant.
Gros said: ‘At this moment, the concern is to notify [the suspects] and assure that they voluntarily come to face justice.’
Failing that, his office would resort to legal instruments at its disposal, one being an international warrant, he said.
Angolan authorities froze dos Santos’ assets and holdings owned by her and her husband Sindika Dokolo in late December.
They are suspected of diverting more than a billion dollars from the national oil giant Sonangol and diamond company Endiama.
The Angolan government says it is trying to recover $1.1 billion it says the country is owed by Dos Santos, her husband and a close associate of the couple.
Isabel Dos Santos, daughter of Angola’s former President and Africa’s richest woman, has been charged with money laundering and mismanagement, which she denies
Dos Santos has posed with a host of celebrities, including Rita Ora in Cannes in May 2017
On Sunday, hundreds of thousands of files about dos Santos that were obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) were released by several news organisations.
The cache of documents is known as the ‘Luanda Leaks’.
The media reports focused on alleged financial schemes used by dos Santos to build her business empire, including transfers between Angola and Dubai.
Dos Santos, who has been living abroad, said on Sunday that allegations made against her were ‘completely unfounded’.
She denies the allegations against her and says she is the victim of a witch hunt.
In a series of tweets last week, Dos Santos said her fortune is ‘built on my character, my intelligence, education, capacity for work, perseverance’.
The tycoon has long been a figurehead for Angolan investments in Portugal, which intensified after the financial crisis that hit the country’s former colonial master in 2011.
She and her associates hold major stakes in at least 17 Portuguese companies.
The holdings include the media giant NOS in partnership with the Portuguese-based Sonae group, which said it was following the Luanda Leaks scandal with ‘attention and concern’.
Isabel dos Santos’s business interests and assets around the world stretching from Portugal to London and Dubai
Isabel Dos Santos, 46, with her Congolese husband Sindika Dokolo, 47, in Cannes in May 2014
The magnate also has a major holding in Galp Energia, a major Portuguese energy group.
Today it emerged the director of private banking at the small Portuguese lender, Eurobic, and manager of Angola’s oil firm Sonangol’s account at the bank, Nuno Ribeiro da Cunha, was found dead at his house in Lisbon on Wednesday.
Police said that “everything points to suicide”, according to Lusa news agency.
Along with Dos Santos, Da Cunha was one of the five people named as a formal suspect by Angola’s public prosecutors in the money laundering case.
On Wednesday it was announced Dos Santos is selling her capital stake in Portuguese bank Eurobic, media reports quoted the bank as stating.
Dos Santos, ‘took the decision to withdraw as a Eurobic shareholder’, according to a bank statement posted late on Wednesday to its website.
It added the decision ‘is definitive [and] must go through as soon as soon as possible’.
Eurobic stated that ‘she has already definitively renounced her voting rights’.
The bank says it will carry out an audit whose conclusions it will pass on to Portugal’s central bank.
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