Angola vows to force return of Isabel dos Santos by 'all possible means'
The Angolan government has vowed to use “all possible means” to force the return of Isabel dos Santos following the Luanda Leaks investigation into how the ex-president’s daughter accrued her $2bn fortune.
Angola’s prosecutor general, Hélder Pitra Grós, said on Angolan public radio on Monday that the country would use “all possible means and activate international mechanisms to bring Dos Santos back to the country”.
Dos Santos left Angola in 2018 after her father stepped down as president. She has denied any wrongdoing.
In a string of tweets after the Guardian and partners revealed the story behind her fortune on Sunday, she denounced the Luanda Leaks investigation – based on 715,000 files from her business empire – claiming it was part of a concerted campaign by the Angolan government to discredit her.
“The ICIJ report is based on many fake documents and false information, it is a coordinated political attack in coordinations with the ‘Angolan Government’. 715 thousand documents read? Who believes that?
#icij #lies,” she tweeted, referring to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, of which the Guardian is a partner.
Dos Santos says her wealth is the result of hard work and business acumen rather than state funds. “I build companies and enterprises, I invest and create jobs. This where my wealth comes from: BUSINESSES,” she tweetedon Sunday night.
At the UK-Africa Investment Summit in London on Monday, attended by 21 African countries, a member of the Angolan delegation denied Dos Santos’s descriptions of the government’s actions as a “witch-hunt”.
António Henriques da Silva, the president of the board of Aipex, Angola’s investment agency, said: “There is a clear separation of judicial and executive powers. We are reaching a point where people are sensitive towards transparency and good governance and equal rights.”
Da Silva said investors wanted to see the country was tackling practices that could be perceived as unethical.
“This is a person who took advantage of her position,” he alleged of Dos Santos. “If the money was invested in the population, in people who do not have access to education or health in Angola, it could save lives.”
In December, an Angolan court froze Dos Santos’s assets, accusing her of having benefited from preferential state deals under her father’s government.
Last week, she lost a defamation case in Portugal against Ana Gomes, an MEP who had accused her of money laundering on Twitter. The court found Gomes’s right to freedom of speech outweighed Dos Santos’s right to protect her reputation.
On Friday, the Portuguese newspaper Expresso reported that authorities in Monaco were investigating her and her father for money laundering, citing an Angolan official in contact with Interpol. Both she and her father, José Eduardo dos Santos, have denied money laundering.
Anti-corruption and financial transparency experts said the case highlighted the role of professional services firms, such as accountants and consultants, in enabling high-risk behaviour. The UK government has identified so-called professional enablers as a law enforcement priority.
“Don’t let anyone frame #LuandaLeaks as a story of ‘corruption’ in a poor country – just like #ParadisePapers and all the rest, this is ultimately about failures of international rules, and the corrupting influence of professional enablers,” said Alex Cobham, the chief executive of the Tax Justice Network.
Susan Hawley, the executive director of the campaign group Spotlight on Corruption, said it was “essential that the UK authorities act urgently” to identify Dos Santos’s UK assets in anticipation of any possible request for assistance from Angolan law enforcement.
Dos Santos has properties in London and is said to spend a substantial amount of time in the UK.A spokesperson for Britain’s National Crime Agency said: “The UK enjoys a good working relationship with the Angolan attorney general’s office and [has] supported a number of investigations where there has been a UK element to their investigation.”
They said they were unable to comment on the existence or otherwise of any investigation.