Home » Africa’s first female billionaire Isabel dos Santos fights $734 million asset freeze

Africa’s first female billionaire Isabel dos Santos fights $734 million asset freeze

Angolan billionaire appeals London Judge's order

by Omokolade Ajayi
Isabel dos Santos

Key Points:

  • Isabel dos Santos challenges a £580 million asset freeze, alleging political motivation behind the legal action by Angolan authorities and Unitel SA.
  • Dos Santos argues at the Court of Appeal that incorrect legal standards were applied in the freezing order linked to disputed loans.
  • Amid corruption allegations, dos Santos defends her innocence, emphasizing transparency in business dealings and dismissing claims of secrecy in her investments.

Isabel dos Santos, Africa’s first female billionaire and daughter of Angola’s former president, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, is challenging a London judge’s decision to freeze £580 million ($734 million) of her assets. The freeze was imposed in December 2023 due to alleged defaulting loans and ongoing legal battles.

Dos Santos, who achieved billionaire status in 2013, argued last week at the Court of Appeal that the incorrect legal test was applied when Angolan telecommunications giant Unitel SA secured the freezing order against her assets.

The initial freeze, linked to loans totaling approximately €325 million ($410.5 million) and $44 million ($55.6 million), was labeled politically motivated by dos Santos and her Dutch holding company, Unitel International Holdings BV.

Earlier this year, dos Santos faced further scrutiny after a 45-page indictment by the Angolan justice system accused her of corruption. In response, she was featured in a cover story in the Portuguese magazine Expresso, denying the allegations from the Luanda Leaks, which implicated her in various corruption scandals. Dos Santos questioned the authenticity of the documents and suggested manipulation by Angolan secret services.

Addressing the controversy, dos Santos emphasized the transparency of her business dealings, particularly her holdings in Malta, and dismissed claims of secrecy surrounding her real estate investments in Lisbon. She maintained her innocence throughout.

Ongoing legal defense

In January, her legal representative, Dan Morrison, strongly denied the allegations, describing them as politically driven. Morrison stated, “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 in multiple jurisdictions to clear her name. He further alleged, “The aim of the Angolan authorities is to intimidate her from returning to Angola so she is unable to run for political office.”

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