Sindika Dokolo, the Congolese businessman and husband of Angolan billionaire Isabel dos Santos, has died in a diving accident in Dubai, his family said on Friday.
“The Dokolo family, his wife, children, mother, brother and sisters have the deepest sorrow and immense sadness to announce the passing of Sindika Dokolo,” a post on Dokolo’s Twitter page said.
The 48-year-old art collector married dos Santos, Africa’s richest woman and daughter of former President of Angola Jose Eduardo dos Santos in 2002. The couple were recently accused of siphoning off more than $1 billion from Angolan state companies.
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It’s still unclear how Dokolo died. A friend and colleague Cedric Mala said the dandy businessman passed away Thursday while diving, a sport he loved. “The doctors tried to resuscitate him without success,” Mala told Reuters.
Dokolo, the son of businessman Augustin Dokolo Sanu, had a large collection of contemporary works from Africa and always advocated for looted artworks to be repatriated to African museums. The Democratic Republic of Congo-born tycoon was also active in politics in his country, and even founded the “Congolese Stand Up” movement in 2017 which fought against a third term for Joseph Kabila, then president of the country, Reuters reported.
Before Dokolo’s sad demise, he had denied the corruption allegations leveled against him and his wife, dos Santos. Dos Santos, who is yet to comment over the passing of her husband, claimed this May that Angolan officials used forged documents including a fake passport that bears the signature of late martial arts film star Bruce Lee as part of the evidence they sent to a court that froze her assets.
As corruption investigations in Angola continue into Africa’s richest woman, her bank accounts were frozen by Portuguese authorities in the country this February.
Portugal is cooperating with Angola, its former colonial territory and one of its closest international partners. Angola had requested the favor from Portugal as dos Santos’ native country looks into the circumstances that have contributed to her estimated $2.2 billion wealth.
As he was nearing his 38-year reign as leader of Angola, José Eduardo dos Santos appointed his daughter to chair Sonangol, Angola’s premium natural gas and petroleum production company. She has been accused of mismanagement and embezzlement of funds during her tenure at Sonangol.
Prosecutors, the BBC reports, are seeking to recover $1 billion that Dos Santos and her associates are alleged to owe the state.
According to Helder Pitta Gros, Angola’s attorney-general, Dos Santos was being provisionally charged with “money laundering, influence peddling, harmful management… [and] forgery of documents, among other economic crimes”.
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.