Africa’s richest woman, Angola’s Isabel dos Santos, has been named as a formal suspect in a criminal investigation, the country’s attorney general is reported to have announced.
Dos Santos amassed a fortune estimated at $2.2bn (£1.7bn) while her father, José Eduardo dos Santos, was president of Angola.
She is battling allegations of corruption and nepotism following the publication of Luanda Leaks, an investigation by Our agency and other media led by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. She denies all wrongdoing.
The allegations against Dos Santos relate to suspected maladministration and misappropriation of funds during her 18-month term as chair of the nation’s state oil company, Sonangol, according to reports of a press conference given by the attorney general, Heldér Pitta Grós, in Luanda.
Angola is the second largest oil-producing nation in Africa after Nigeria, and its state oil company is central to the economy, accounting for some 90% of exports.
Alongside Dos Santos, Pitta Grós named a number of her associates. According to the Portuguese news agency Lusa, they are: Sarju Raikundalia, former Sonangol financial administrator; Mário Leite da Silva, manager of the company and chairman of the board of directors of Banco de Fomento Angola (BFA); Paula Oliveira, a friend of Isabel dos Santos; and a fourth defendant who is a director of Eurobic, a bank in which the former president’s daughter is the largest shareholder.
All of those named are currently outside Angola. The attorney general said they would be notified of their status as defendants.
“At the moment, the concern is to notify and have them come to justice voluntarily,” Pitta Grós is reported to have told the press conference, adding that if this goal is not achieved, his office would resort to other legal instruments, including issuing international arrest warrants.
A spokeswoman for Portugal’s public prosecutor’s office told Reuters that Pitta Grós and Portugal’s attorney general, Lucilia Gago will meet in Lisbon on Thursday. It is not known what they planned to discuss.
By the time of publication, Dos Santos and her associates had not responded to requests for comment.
The Luanda Leaks exposed numerous schemes apparently used by Dos Santos and her husband to obtain Angolan state funds during her father’s presidency.
The privately owned Portuguese bank Eurobic has announced that Dos Santos will be quitting as its largest shareholderafter earlier saying it had barred her and her family as customers.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Lisbon bank said Dos Santos had decided to exit its share register. She holds 42.5% of the stock. The bank said the sale process was already under way, and she was expected to find a buyer “in a very short period” due to the existence of interested parties.
In a statement responding to the Luanda Leaks, Dos Santos and her husband said they owe their success to hard work and business acumen. She has accused Angola’s current president of pursuing a “politically motivated witch-hunt” against her and her family.