Update March 15, 2019: The judge who oversaw this case was not qualified and has since been dismissed and jailed. In February 2017 Sindika Dokolo was acquitted of the same charges by another court. An appeal by Mr Dokolo’s lawyers against the latest charges is still pending.
A court in the Democratic Republic of Congo has sentenced Sindika Dokolo, the son-in-law of Angolan President Eduardo dos Santos, to one year in prison for engaging in real estate fraud.
Dokolo, a Congolese businessman and the husband of Isabel dos Santos (Africa’s richest woman), was sentenced on Wednesday alongside his brother Luzolo Dokolo but neither of them was in court during the hearing, according to the BBC.
On Friday, Dokolo promised to appeal against the ruling, saying it was politically motivated.
“This conviction is so crude. It seems that [Congolese President Joseph] Kabila and the intelligence service are no longer even concerned about appearances,” Dokolo told Reuters, adding that he had previously been cleared of all charges.
Dokolo, who is also a popular art collector, is an outspoken critic of embattled President Kabila and a supporter of the current Congolese opposition leader Mosie Katumbi.
In recent months, Dokolo has been using his social media pages to criticize Kabila for his refusal to step down after his constitutional mandate expired in December last year.
Although the Congolese government insists that the delayed presidential election is due to a lack of resources to register millions of voters across the country, the opposition sees it as a ploy by Kabila to cling to power.
Strained Diplomatic Relations
Some critics say Dokolo’s conviction is part of a sustained attempt by President Kabila to silence his opponents.
After the ruling, the prominent Congolese businessman took to Twitter to condemn President Kabila, insisting that he was behind the sentence:
“I have just inaugurated a $400 million factory. Kabila has condemned me to one year in prison over a plot of land,” he wrote.
His conviction is likely to further strain relations between the two countries, which have recently been involved in a diplomatic spat after Angola called on President Kabila to peacefully hand over power and allow someone else to run the country.
Angola appears to be uneasy about DRC’s political instability and has sent more than 30,000 refugees spilling across the border since last August.
But although Dokolo believes his conviction was politically motivated, his critics accuse him of benefiting from his father-in-law’s illicit wealth, which allegedly runs in to billions of dollars.
The Angolan first family is said to own banks, telecom companies, a cement factory, a supermarket chain, restaurants, casinos, major stakes in utility firms, and countless other joint ventures at home and abroad.
In 2013, Forbes named Isabel dos Santos as Africa’s first billionaire woman, with an estimated net worth of about $3.4 billion.