The billionaire daughter of Angola’s ex-president is now the subject of an international arrest warrant for alleged corruption. In an interview with DW, Isabel dos Santos denied she is trying to escape the law in Angola.
Isabel dos Santos, in an exclusive interview with DW, said she is prepared to face corruption charges related to the source of her personal wealth.
“I’m not hiding. I’m on social media every day. My whereabouts and place of residence are known,” dos Santos said.
INTERPOL last week issued a warrant for her arrest on the request of Angola’s public prosecutors, according to a report by the LUSA news agency. The report said INTERPOL ordered dos Santos to be found, arrested and extradited to face charges in Angola.
The allegations against dos Santos include embezzlement, fraud, influence peddling and money laundering.
The 49-year-old billionaire businesswoman is the eldest child of the country’s late former president, Eduardo dos Santos.
Dos Santos was once ranked the richest woman in Africa with a fortune estimated at more than $2 billion.
Dos Santos lives mostly in London, Dubai or Lisbon — the capital of Angola’s former colonial power Portugal.
In the DW interview, dos Santos insisted that she is yet to be notified of any arrest warrant but argued that she has cooperated with judicial authorities so far.
“When I’m summoned by the judiciary in Portugal, I always show up on time and make my statements. I have no problems with that to help establish the truth, but I assume that the Angolan prosecutors really don’t want me to testify in court.”
A case based on ‘false information’?
The Angolan judiciary began investigating the dos Santos clan after the resignation of Eduardo dos Santos in 2017. Among the allegations leveled against Isabel dos Santos is the embezzlement of over $200 million in public funds during her time as head of the state oil company Sonangol.
In 2020, more than 715,000 emails, contracts and memos were made public as part of the so-called Luanda Leaks expose by the New York-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). The documents disclosed conflicts of interest and nepotism of the former Angolan presidential family.
Dos Santos told DW that the leaks were part of a plot against her family.
“A lot of false information was spread in the wake of the Luanda Leaks. And behind it is the Angolan Attorney General’s Office and the Angolan state, who hired a group of journalists to spread their agenda,” she told DW.
“I want to help the truth come out. The people should know that the so-called Luanda Leaks are ordered lies. It is a plot against me and my family.”
However, Ana Gomes, a Portuguese politician and former member of the European Parliament, told DW that labeling of the Luanda Leaks as false is untenable.
“Luanda Leaks is a journalistic investigation based on revelations made by Rui Pinto. It is an investigation that has the credibility of the consortium of journalists who have been behind revelations like the Panama Papers and the Paradise Papers, etc. Everything has been verified by journalists,” the Lisbon-based diplomat said.
Gomes also rejected a claim by dos Santos that the Angolan government had supplied the investigative journalists with forged documents.
Presidential family privilege
Dos Santos denied in the DW interview that her fortune was linked to state resouces.
“When I was appointed to the board of Sonangol, I came from the private sector. I already had many other companies under my leadership at the time. I would like to state one thing: my companies were not built with public money,” she told DW.
Dos Santos who has owned companies in the telecommunications, banking and technology sectors told DW that loans had helped her to create a business empire.
Gomes noted that Dos Santos had accessed loans and other resources only because of her family connections. The loans, the Portuguese politician said, were of questionable origins and many amounted to resources diverted from Angola.
“She was the daughter of the president of Angola. She would never have had access to the resources and the positions that she had in those companies and the resources of the Angolan state itself if she was not the daughter of the Angolan president.”
Unresolved cases in Portugal too
Dos Santos told DW that Angola “does not have a functioning judiciary.”
“The Angolan judicial system is not independent. The laws are trampled on very often, there are many judicial errors. Before I got into this situation, I wasn’t really aware of that,” she said in reaction to ongoing processes to bring her to justice.
Gomes though believes the arrest warrant “was late from the Angolan authorities, just like any arrest warrant is late from the Portuguese authorities.”
She is concerned no action has been taken to make dos Santos account for the alleged financial crimes she has committed.
“In the case of Mrs. Isabel dos Santos, who took out millions in loans from the Portuguese banks and left the Portuguese banks on fire, to this day no action has been taken by the Portuguese judicial authorities, which I find unacceptable, and which is also the product of political complicity.”
The office of Angola’s prosecutor general did not immediately provide comment on dos Santos’ statements or the INTERPOL warrant when contacted by DW.
Braima Darame contributed to this article.
Edited by Benita van Eyssen