A Portuguese judge has ruled that Angolan Vice President Manuel Vicente must be prosecuted for corruption and money laundering.
Vincente, who has been fronted as the person to succeed incumbent President of Angola Jose Eduardo dos Santos, is accused of bribing a magistrate when he was the CEO of state-run oil company Sonangol, according to Reuters.
In her ruling at the Lisbon Criminal Court in Portugal Thursday, Judge Ana Cristina Carvalho said the charges brought by the prosecution against Mr. Vincente are valid and all suspects in the case must stand trial.
Vincente is said to have given former Portuguese prosecutor Orlando Figueira a bribe of 760,000 euros to suspend an investigation in to his dealings in Portugal before he became vice president.
Two of his legal and financial representatives in Portugal, Paulo Blanco and Armindo Pires, have also been charged with money laundering and corruption for allegedly helping Vincente pay the bribe.
Mr. Figueira was arrested in 2016 and is expected to face charges of receiving a bribe to hinder an investigation.
The ruling has angered Angolan authorities, who have dismissed it as “revenge by the former colonial master” and “neo-colonialism,” further warning that the charges are “a serious attack” that threatens relations between the two countries.
Vincente’s lawyer in Portugal, Rui Patricio, argues that his client has not been notified of the accusations against him and therefore the judge’s ruling does not affect him since he does not fit the status of an arguido or a suspect.
Arguido is a Portuguese word given to a person whom the authorities suspect may have committed an offense. In a criminal investigation, a person has to be declared an arguido prior to being arrested.
Corruption in Angola continues to be a major stumbling block to economic growth and government-sponsored liberalization programs, with the latest studies showing that the South African country faces serious corruption problems across all levels of society.
With Angola being the second-largest oil producer in Africa, corruption and mismanagement of public resources are particularly prevalent in the mining sector.
In addition to the embezzlement of public funds and money laundering, corruption in Angola comes in many others forms, including systematic looting of state assets and a deep-rooted patronage system.
The high levels of corruption in the oil-rich country are largely attributed to the lack of proper checks and balances, insufficient capacity to prosecute corruption cases, and a culture of impunity.