Home » Africa’s first female billionaire accuses Angolan government of political persecution

Africa’s first female billionaire accuses Angolan government of political persecution

Dos Santos, Africa's former richest woman, faces allegations of embezzlement and fraud

by Omokolade Ajayi
Isabel dos Santos

In response to a series of twelve charges, including embezzlement and fraud, brought by Angola’s public prosecutor against Africa’s first female billionaire, Isabel dos Santos, the Angolan businesswoman, through her legal representative, vehemently denied the allegations, asserting that they are politically motivated.

Dan Morrison, lawyer for dos Santos, who held the title of Africa’s richest woman from 2016 to 2017, spoke to the BBC, stating: “Isabel dos Santos rejects these trumped-up charges by the Angolan government, which have been launched as part of a sustained campaign of political persecution against her by President João Lourenço.”

Morrison added that dos Santos is actively engaged in court proceedings across various jurisdictions to clear her name. He alleged, “The aim of the Angolan authorities is to intimidate her from returning to Angola so she is unable to run for political office.”

Background on dos Santos’ legal battles and assets seizure

For years, dos Santos has faced accusations of corruption, including allegations by the Angolan government that she and her husband diverted $1 billion in state funds to companies in which they had stakes during her father’s presidency, particularly in oil giant Sonangol. Her father, José Eduardo dos Santos, who led Angola for 38 years until stepping down in 2017, passed away in July 2022.

In 2022, the Angolan government seized assets in Angola worth almost $1 billion, and additional assets linked to dos Santos were confiscated in Portugal. President Joao Lourenco’s administration also confiscated shares in Unitel S.A., the leading mobile telecommunications company in the country, from dos Santos and one of her deceased father’s associates, Leopoldino Fragoso do Nascimento.

This asset seizure is part of a broader anti-corruption initiative in Angola, receiving international praise but also facing criticism for alleged political bias. Critics argue that the campaign targets political opponents and overlooks corruption in the ruling party.

Major setback: London judge freezes $734 million of dos Santos’ assets

In December 2023, dos Santos faced a significant setback as a London judge froze £580 million ($734 million) of her assets in a complex legal battle with Angolan telecommunications giant Unitel SA.

The freeze order, part of mounting legal challenges against dos Santos, targeted both her and Unitel International Holdings for defaulting on loans totaling around €325 million ($410.5 million) and $44 million ($55.6 million).

The ruling adds to dos Santos’ legal woes, including accusations of causing over $5 billion in losses to Angola during her father’s rule. The billionaire businesswoman continues to fight legal battles on multiple fronts, as her legal team maintains the charges are politically motivated and part of a broader campaign against her.

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