Africa’s richest woman Santos charged with money laundering over a $1bn deal

Mohammed Awal Jan 23, 2020 at 09:00am

January 23, 2020 at 09:00 am | News

Mohammed Awal

Mohammed Awal

January 23, 2020 at 09:00 am | News

Prosecutors in Angola have officially accused Africa’s richest woman, Isabel dos Santos, of embezzlement and money laundering.

The allegations are related to her time as chairwoman of state oil firm Sonangol.

“Isabel dos Santos is accused of mismanagement and embezzlement of funds during her tenure at Sonangol,” Attorney General Helder Pitta Gros told a news conference Wednesday.

Prosecutors, the BBC reports are seeking to recover $1 billion that Ms. Dos Santos and her associates are alleged to owe the state.

According to Mr. Gros, Ms. Santos was being provisionally charged with “money laundering, influence peddling, harmful management… [and] forgery of documents, among other economic crimes”.

Ms. Dos Santos recently denied with vehemence any wrongdoing in an interview with Al Jazeera. She debunked allegations she siphoned hundreds of millions of dollars of public money into offshore accounts. 

According to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), its investigations dubbed the Luanda Leaks found more than 715,000 emails, charts, contracts, audits and accounts used by Ms. Dos Santos and her associates to steal from the Angolan state.

Citing Portuguese newspaper Expresso, Reuters reports others linked to dos Santos were also named as formal suspects including Mario Leite da Silva, chairman of Banco de Fomento Angola. 

Ms. Dos Santos was controversially appointed head of Sonangol in June 2016 by her father, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who was president at the time. She was sacked from the post in 2017 by her father’s successor, President Joao Lourenço. Following her sack, new management at the oil company discovered a suspicious transfer of 67 million dollars to Dubai.

The Angolan authorities are set to conduct a criminal investigation to determine whether Ms. Dos Santos should be formally charged, as they urged her and the other five people she was mentioned with to return to Angola.

Failure to an international arrest warrant would be issued for her.

Ms. Dos Santos, notwithstanding her recent financial scandal, expressed interest in the Angolan presidency. 

According to the BBC, Ms. Dos Santos declined four times to rule out running for the presidency.

She said: “To lead is to serve, so I will do whatever my life takes me”.

Ms. Dos Santos reportedly told a Portuguese television channel that “it’s possible” she might run for the presidency in 2022.

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