The article has been automatically translated into English by Google Translate from Russian and has not been edited.

Isabelle dos Santos: how a Russian citizen became the richest woman in Africa


Source: Air force

As follows from the documents that fell into the hands of journalists, the richest woman in Africa made her fortune on corruption and exploitation of her own country. Isabelle dos Santos, who is a citizen of Angola and Russia, made lucrative deals with land, oil, diamonds and telecommunications companies during the period when her father Jose Eduardo dos Santos was president of Angola, a country rich in natural resources, writes Air force.

Photo: video frame YouTube / Góis Sousa

The documents show how Isabelle and her husband were allowed to buy up valuable state assets in the course of many suspicious transactions.

Dos Santos herself claims that completely false charges have been brought against her and that the Angolan government is conducting a politically motivated witch hunt.

Isabelle dos Santos, daughter of the former president of Angola, lives in the UK and owns expensive real estate in central London.

The Angolan authorities have already opened a criminal case against her and froze her assets.

Meanwhile, the BBC's Panorama program has gained access to over 700 documents shedding light on the Angolan billionaire's business empire.

Most of these documents were received by PPLAAF, a non-governmental organization for the protection of witnesses to corruption crimes in Africa, which shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). A total of 37 media organizations studied these documents, including the British newspaper Guardian and Portuguese Expresso.

According to Andrew Feinstein, executive director of the UK-based anti-corruption organization Corruption Watch, these documents describe how dos Santos exploited Angola to the detriment of ordinary citizens.

“Every time she appears on the cover of a glossy magazine in another country, every time she throws one of her lavish parties in the south of France, she tramples on the hopes of Angolans again,” Feinstein says.

The ICIJ has already called these documents Luanda Leaks - "Leak from Luanda."

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Oil chain

One of the most suspicious deals was made from London through the British branch of the Angolan state oil company Sonangol.

By presidential decree of her father, Jose Eduardo dos dos Santos, who ruled Angola for 38 years, Isabelle was appointed in 2016 the president of Sonangol, which was experiencing serious difficulties.

However, in 2017, dos Santos resigned as president, and although he was succeeded by a selected candidate from the ruling party, Isabelle's position in the company was in jeopardy, and two months later she was fired.

Many Angolans were surprised at how the new president, Juan Lawrence, began to shake the family business of his predecessor.

From the documents leaked to the media, it follows that in the last days of her stay at Sonangol, Isabelle approved suspicious payments totaling $ 58 million to Dubai-based consulting firm Matter Business Solutions.

In her own words, she does not have any stake in this company, but the documents show that this company was run by her business manager, and the owner was a personal friend.

According to Panorama, the day Isabelle was fired from her position as president of Sonangol, Matter Business Solutions filed more than 50 invoices for the London subsidiary.

It seems that Dos Santos authorized the payment of bills issued by her friend’s company after his dismissal.

Although Matter Business Solutions provided some advice, the invoices contain too little information to justify such high rates.

So, one of the accounts for 472 196 euros (523 311 dollars as of 23.01.2020. - Note FD Woman) billed for unspecified travel expenses, and another, at $ 928, for, again, unspecified legal services.

Two bills, at 676 euros (339,97 dollars) each, were issued for completely identical work on the same day. However, Isabelle approved payments on both accounts.

According to Matter Business Solutions lawyers, the firm was hired to help restructure Angola's oil industry, and bills were issued for work that had already been done by other consulting companies hired by Matter Business Solutions.

“Regarding invoices showing travel expenses, it is common practice for consulting companies to write down their expenses in one paragraph. This is often a cost associated with a huge amount of paperwork. Matter [Business Solutions] can provide documentary evidence of all costs incurred, ”the company said.

Santos soul attorneys claim her Matter [Business Solutions] payout actions were completely legal and that she did not approve of any payouts after she was fired from Sonangol.

They say, “All bills paid were for services specified in a contract and agreed by the two parties, based on a contract with the knowledge and approval of Sonangol's board of directors.”

ICIJ and Panorama also revealed new details of the business deals that have enriched dos Santos.

A significant part of her fortune was made by owning a stake in the Portuguese energy company Galp, which one of her firms bought from Sonangol in 2006.

According to the documents, the advance payment for the share was only 15% of the total cost, and the remaining 63 million euros ($ 70 million) were issued as a loan taken from Sonangol at a low interest rate.

Under the very generous terms of the loan, her debt to the people of Angola can not be paid for 11 years.

The share of Santos souls in Galp is now estimated at more than 750 million euros ($ 831 million).

In 2017, Isabel offered to fully repay the debt of Sonangol.

This proposal should be rejected because it did not include almost 9 million euros (about $ 10 million) of interest arrears.

But at that time, Ms. dos Santos managed Sonangol and accepted the money as a full payment of her own debt.

Six days later, she was fired, and the new Sonangol managers returned the payment.

Dos Santos says she herself initiated the purchase of a stake in Galp and that Sonangol also benefited from the deal.

“There are absolutely no violations in any of these transactions. This is the investment that has brought the greatest benefit to the national oil company, and all the contracts that have been drawn up are perfectly legal, no wrongdoing, ”she insists.

According to her lawyers, the 2017 proposal covered the entire amount that Sonangol billed as debt.

Photo: video frame YouTube / Góis Sousa

Diamond Connection

In the diamond industry, a similar story.

In 2012, spouse of souls Santos Sindika Dokolo signed a unilateral agreement with the Angolan state-owned company Sodiam, which controls the import and export of diamonds.

The parties were to be 50:50 partners in the deal to acquire a stake in the Swiss luxury jewelry brand De Grisogono.

But the deal was paid by a state company. From the documents it follows that a year and a half after the conclusion of the transaction, Sodiam invested $ 79 million in the partnership, while the share of Dokolo amounted to only $ 4 million.

At the same time, Sodiam also paid him 5 million euros ($ 5,5 million) as a reward for the conclusion of the transaction, so Dokolo did not spend any personal money at all.

The diamond deal has even worse consequences for the people of Angola.

From the documents it follows that Sodiam took the money for it in a private bank, where Isabelle dos Santos is the largest shareholder.

Sodiam took a loan at a rate of 9%. The loan was issued under the presidential guarantees of her father, so Santos can’t stay on the bank of souls.

Bravo da Rosa, the new CEO of Sodiam, told Panorama that the people of Angola did not receive a single dollar from the deal: “In the end, when we finish repaying this loan, Sodiam will lose more than $ 200 million.”

The former president also gave the husband of Madame dos Santos the right to purchase part of the rough Angolan diamonds.

Who is Isabelle dos Santos?

  • Isabelle dos Santos was born in Baku in 1973
  • Her parents are an Angolan revolutionary, later the President of Angola, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, and a Soviet citizen Tatyana Kukanova
  • The eldest daughter in the family
  • Speaks Russian, native Portuguese, also speaks French and English
  • She is a citizen of Angola and Russia (the presence of her Russian citizenship of souls Santos herself confirmed TASS on January 9)
  • In her youth with her mother lived in the UK, returned to Angola after graduation
  • Married to a collector and businessman from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sindika Dokolo
  • Currently resides in the UK
  • Considered the richest woman in Africa with a fortune of $ 2 billion
  • Owns stocks and shares in oil companies, banks and mobile communications companies, mainly in Angola and Portugal

On the subject: How the Russian woman became the wife of the President of Angola and the mother of the richest woman in Africa

The Angolan government claims the diamonds were sold at discounted prices. Sources told Panorama that the losses could have amounted to nearly a billion dollars.

Dos Santos told the BBC that she could not comment on this situation, since she is not a shareholder of De Grisogono.

However, the documents leaked to the press show that their own financial advisers, dos Santos, call her shareholder De Grisogono.

Sindika Dokolo later invested in a deal. According to his lawyers, the amount he invested amounted to $ 115 million, and the acquisition of part of De Grisogono was his idea. They also claim that his company bought rough diamonds at a price higher than the market.

Photo: screenshot YouTube / euronews

Land transactions

From the documents that came into the public domain, it follows that in September 2017, dos Santos bought land from the state and again paid only a small advance.

Her company acquired a square kilometer of coastal territory in the capital of Angola, Luanda, and again the transaction was supported by presidential decrees signed by her father.

The contract states that the purchased territory costs $ 96 million, but it follows from the documents that the company dos Santos paid only 5% of this amount, agreeing to invest the rest in the development.

Panorama found several ordinary residents who were evicted from their homes to make way for the Futungo construction project.

They were relocated from the coast of Luanda to a remote residential area 50 kilometers from the capital.

Teresa Wissapa lost her business because of the development of souls Santos and now can hardly provide for her seven children.

“I only ask God to start thinking more about our situation. She may not even be aware of it, but we are suffering, ”says Teresa.

Isabelle dos Santos declined to comment on Futungo.

But this is not her only land deal, because of which the local population lost their homes.

About 500 families were evicted from another coastal site in Luanda after Isabelle dos Santos took on another major construction project.

Now these families live in terrible conditions next to the gutters. Some huts flood sewage during high tides.

Dos Santos claims: they say there were no relocations related to her project, and her companies did not receive any money at all, since the development project was canceled.

Communication with cellular companies

Angola’s mobile communications industry has also brought big benefits to the billionaire.

It acquired 25% of shares in the country's largest operator, Unitel. The necessary licenses for this company were issued by her father in 1999, and the very next year she bought out a share from a high-ranking member of the government.

Unitel has already brought her $ 1 billion in dividends, and her share in the company is estimated at another $ 1 billion. But this is not the only way she received money from a private company.

She agreed to Unitel lend 350 million euros ($ 388 million) to the new Unitel International Holdings, which she herself founded.

The name of the company was misleading, as it was not related to Unitel and its owner was Isabelle dos Santos.

From the documents it follows that Dos Santos signed the contract on behalf of the creditor and on behalf of the borrower, which is a blatant conflict of interest.

She denies that the loans were illegal: "Both board members and shareholders approved them, and the deal has brought and will continue to benefit Unitel."

Her lawyers argue that the availability of loans protected Unitel from currency fluctuations.

Most of the companies involved in the suspicious transactions were supervised by accountants from the audit firm Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC). PWC earned millions by auditing and consulting its clients, as well as advising them on tax issues.

PWC severed ties with the billionaire and her family after Panorama inquired about how the company helped dos Santos in deals that made her rich.

PWC says it is conducting an internal investigation based on "very serious and troubling charges."
Tom Keating, director of the Center for Financial Crime and Security Studies, told Panorama that PWC gave legitimacy to the actions of dos Santos and her companies.

"The PWC, if it doesn't promote corruption, it creates the appearance of something respectable, makes everything that happens acceptable or more acceptable than it should be," says Keating. “In their place, I would conduct a comprehensive check, analyze the decisions that were made:“ Was it right to agree to this kind of business and shouldn't we have reported to the appropriate authorities about what fell into our hands? ”

PWC says they strive for the highest standards of professionalism and ethical standards in the work of all of their offices around the world.

“In response to very serious and troubling allegations, we immediately initiated an investigation and thoroughly investigate the facts before taking stock. We will not hesitate to take the necessary steps to meet the highest standards of conduct wherever we operate in the world, ”the company said in a statement.

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