South Africa

Portugal Freezes Bank Accounts Of Angolan Billionaire Isabel Dos Santos

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Written by Peter Pedroncelli

Feb 14, 2020

super-rich isabel dos santos
Isabel dos Santos, Africa’s richest woman worth around $2B, is accused of stealing state funds to build her extensive business empire. In this image released on Friday, March 15, 2019, Isabel dos Santos, Unitel Chairperson, speaks on stage. (Unitel Angola via AP Images)

Portugal has frozen the bank accounts of Africa’s richest woman, Isabel dos Santos at the request of Angolan authorities. 

Dos Santos, Africa’s richest woman, the daughter of former Angola President Jose Eduardo dos Santos is reportedly worth around $2 billion. 

She is accused of stealing state funds to build her extensive business empire, according to Bloomberg. She has denied any wrongdoing.  

Isabel’s father Jose Eduardo dos Santos served as a dictator in Angola for 38 years until voluntarily relinquishing power to his hand-picked successor Lourenço in 2017. Dos Santos’ Angolan presidency was characterized by allegations of corruption and human rights abuses.

He was often criticized for his major military spending which represented the largest military and defense budget in sub-Saharan Africa during the last years of his leadership — an annual budget of around $6.5 billion in 2015.

President Dos Santos put his children in positions of power within state-owned companies, allowing them to allegedly siphon off money from those firms to build their personal fortunes.

This is what Isabel dos Santos is accused of doing in Angola and Portugal — countries that share a colonial history and maintain strong economic ties.

Angola’s investigation is focused on alleged irregularities involving state-owned companies including the oil giant Sonangol, which Isabel led as chairwoman, and a diamond-marketing firm, Sodiam.

Isabel’s husband Sindika Dokolo is a major shareholder of Sodiam and is also being investigated as part of the corruption probe.

Portuguese public prosecutors have ordered a freeze on Dos Santos’s bank accounts following a visit from Angola’s attorney general Helder Pitta Gros in January to seek the help of Portuguese authorities in the case, according to TheGuardian.

The former first daughter’s Angolan assets were seized in late December but she still had access to accounts in Portugal, where she has been living since she was fired as head of Sonangol in 2017.

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Isabel’s business empire spans Angola and Portugal.

She owns a stake in Angolan telecommunications firm Unitel, cement company Cimangola, and bank Fomento de Angola, The New York Times reports. Dos Santos also has shares in Portuguese cable television firm Nos SGPS.

In January, Dos Santos sold her controlling stake in Portuguese engineering firm Efacec.