Angola charges billionaire ex-first daughter with $1billion fraud

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Isabel dos Santos, Angola’s billionaire former first daughter has been charged with money laundering and mismanagement during her stewardship of state-owned oil firm Sonangol.

She was charged along with five others, as Luanda moves to try to bring her home to face trial for looting the country’s coffers.

Documents leaked this week alleged the daughter of ex-president Jose Eduardo dos Santos, plundered state coffers to build her fortune, estimated at $2.1 billion (1.82 billion euros).

“Isabel dos Santos is accused of mismanagement and embezzlement of funds during her tenure at Sonangol and is thus charged in the first instance with the crimes of money laundering, influence peddling, harmful management … forgery of documents, among other economic crimes,” prosecutor general Helder Pitta Gros told a news conference late Wednesday.

Investigations into Isabel dos Santos’s 18-month tenure as Sonangol head from June 2016 were opened after her successor Carlos Saturnino raised the alarm about “irregular money transfers” and other dodgy procedures.

Dubbed Africa’s richest woman, Isabel dos Santos is accused of using her father’s backing to plunder state funds from the oil-rich but poor southern African country and moving the money abroad with the help of Western firms.

She stopped living in Angola after her father, who ruled the country with an iron fist for nearly 40 years, stepped down in 2017 for his anointed successor Joao Lourenco.

Gros said dos Santos was among five suspects, all of whom were currently residing abroad.

“At the moment, the concern is to notify and get them to voluntarily come to justice,” said Gros.

The BBC reported that the leaks showed how Ms Dos Santos got access to lucrative land, oil, diamond and telecoms deals when her father was president. Her fortune is estimated at $2.1 bn (£1.6bn).

They also showed how Western firms helped Ms Dos Santos take her money out of Angola.

She called the allegations entirely false and claimed that the Angolan government was engaged in a politically motivated witch-hunt.

Earlier this week a top executive at financial services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers left the firm over its links with Ms dos Santos. The company declined to comment on the departure and said it had launched its own investigation.

On Wednesday Portuguese bank EuroBic said it would end its business relationship with Ms dos Santos, who is reportedly the bank’s main shareholder through two companies she owns.

The bank added that it would investigate transfers worth tens of millions of dollars she made. Some of the transfers drained Sonangol’s account at EuroBic, the New York Times reports.