Prosecutors in Angola are accusing Africa’s richest woman, Isabel dos Santos, of embezzlement and money laundering. Attorney General Helder Pitta Gros said the allegations are linked to her time as chairwoman of state oil company Sonangol in Angola. He urged her to return to Angola, where she faces potential criminal charges. Damning documents being called the “Luanda Leaks” have revealed widespread corruption and how she exploited poverty-stricken Angola to build her riches. However, dos Santos has denied all wrongdoing.
Prosecutors are looking to recover $1bn that dos Santos and her associates allegedly owe the state. “Isabel dos Santos is accused of mismanagement and embezzlement of funds during her tenure at Sonangol,” said Pitta Gros. She was being provisionally charged with “money laundering, influence peddling, harmful management…[and] forgery of documents, among other economic crimes”. The Angolan authorities will carry out a criminal investigation to assess if she should be formally charged. If dos Santos does not return to Angola willingly, a global arrest warrant will be issued for her. Her assets in Angola have been frozen.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists obtained the “Luanda Leaks” dossier, a stash of over 700,000 confidential emails, audits and accounts about dos Santos’ business empire. The leaked documents unpack how she was able to exploit deals on land, oil and diamonds during the presidency of her father, José Eduardo dos Santos, in mineral-rich Angola. His 38-year rule became known for nepotism and corruption. The “Luanda leaks” also show how a worldwide network of consultants, lawyers, bankers and accountants helped dos Santos build her wealth and siphon it out of Angola. It’s alleged that some of the world’s leading companies – including the Boston Consulting Group, McKinsey and PwC – helped her profit from Angola, while lending their legitimacy.
Dos Santos, estimated to be worth $2.2bn, claims her wealth is self-made and she never benefited from state funds. She slammed the allegations as false and labelled the investigation as a “political persecution.” The 46-year-old billionaire, who now lives in the UK, told the BBC she was thinking about running for president of Angola.