Some called her Princess. Others labeled her the beautiful face of the dictatorship – always beaming from the pages of Fortune, Forbes and other high-finance magazines which flattered her as Africa’s “First Woman Billionaire.” Today, the daughter of Angola’s ex-president is in a messy fight over millions siphoned from state funds, now frozen as part of the current president’s anti-corruption drive.
As Ms. Isabel dos Santos tells it, she made her first million selling eggs on the street on her way to school. Soon, she had a share in lucrative state contracts and became head of Angola’s state-owned oil firm, thanks to her father’s generous decrees. Her assets swelled to $2 billion, the Bloomberg news service reports.
Last month, an Angolan court froze the assets of dos Santos, her husband Sindika Dokolo, and one of her executives and seized their shares in local companies, including the Unitel telecommunications firm, the BFA bank and the cement company Cimangola, according to Angola’s state news agency. The nation’s Attorney General accuses the three of engaging in transactions with state-owned companies that led to the government incurring losses of $1.14 billion.
Jose Filomeno, Isabel’s brother, was fired as head of Angola’s sovereign wealth fund and accused of illegally transferring $500 million from Angola’s central bank to the U.K. Their sister, Welwitschia dos Santos, recently lost her seat as a member of parliament after leaving Angola.
These moves mark another step in President Joao Lourenco’s bid to battle graft and dismantle the influence of his predecessor’s family over key industries.
Dos Santos says she will “use all the instruments of Angolan and international law at my disposal to fight this order and ensure the truth comes out.” But political analyst Paula Roque calls the arrests an indication that Angola is “finally moving in the direction of accountability and reversing decades of impunity, nepotism, patronage and corruption.” Opposition spokesman Marcial Dachala concurs. “This confirms what we’ve been saying since 1975, that this country is a victim of kleptocracy.”
Angola is the second biggest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa. Nonetheless, 36% of its citizens live in extreme poverty, according to the United Nations.
SOURCE: Global Information Network