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Angolan bank chief named in dos Santos probe announces resignation

Angola's Dos Santos vows 'ready to fight' graft claims


Isabel dos Santos
Luanda (AFP) - Isabel dos Santos, the tycoon daughter of Angola's ex-president who is at the centre of an anti-graft investigation, on Thursday vowed she was ready to fight against what she called "misleading and untrue" allegations.

Dos Santos, dubbed 'the princess' in Angola, is accused of using her father's influence to steal millions of dollars from state companies and siphon the funds overseas during his rule.

The allegations stretch across Angola's state oil and diamond industries to Lisbon, where a Portuguese banker tied to the dos Santos probe has been found dead in an apparent suicide.

Angola's prosecutors have accused dos Santos of mismanagement and embezzlement of funds during her tenure at Sonangol, Angola's state-owned oil giant which she once headed during her father's rule.

But Dos Santos on Thursday countered the claims.

"The allegations which have been made against me over the last few days are extremely misleading and untrue," she said in a statement issued through a public relations firm in London.

She said was "ready to fight through the international courts to defend my good name".

Prosecutors want the billionairess and other suspects to return home for questioning.

Most of the ex-president's family have moved abroad since he stepped down in 2017, and are believed to mostly spend time between London and Portugal.

Isabel dos Santos' whereabouts were not clear on Thursday.

The eldest child of ex-president Jose Eduardo dos Santos was already the target of an anti-graft campaign led by her father's successor, Joao Lourenco.

Angola's Prosecutor General Helder Pitta Gros said dos Santos is charged with money laundering, influence peddling, harmful management, forgery of documents among other economic crimes.

Gros said dos Santos was among five named suspects, all of whom were currently residing abroad.

"At the moment, the concern is to notify and get them to voluntarily come to face justice," Gros said.

One of the suspects, a Portuguese banker identified at the weekend in a worldwide media release of documents dubbed the "Luanda Leaks," has been found dead in Lisbon, police there said.

Police said on Thursday Ribeiro da Cunha was found dead at the garage of his house in Lisbon on Wednesday night, after apparently committing suicide by hanging. He had tried to commit suicide earlier this month, police said.

No one at Eurobic was immediately available for comment. Eurobic, in which dos Santos has owned a large stake, said on Thursday she had decided to sell the stake.

Mario Leite da Silva, who resigned as chairman of Banco de Fomento Angola (BFA) on Monday, was also named a formal suspect by Angola's public prosecutors. Silva could not immediately be reached for comment.

'TAKE ACTION'

In his resignation letter, which was seen by Reuters, Silva made no reference to recent events linked to dos Santos, citing instead a December decision by BFA's controlling shareholder Unitel not to name him among board members for the next three years.

Telecoms firm Unitel is part-owned by dos Santos. Portuguese Banco BPI, a unit of Spain's Caixabank, is another major shareholder in BFA.

Separately, auditors PwC said the firm had "taken action to terminate any ongoing work for entities controlled by members of the dos Santos family" following what it said were "very serious and concerning allegations", and had begun an inquiry.

Isabel dos Santos, who amassed her fortune during her father's decades-long presidency, has said allegations against her are politically motivated. She could not immediately be reached for further comment on Thursday.

In Portugal, Angola's former colonial power, dos Santos holds significant stakes in several major firms including NOS and oil firm Galp Energia. Pitta Gros arrived in Lisbon on Thursday to meet his Portuguese counterpart Lucilia Gago.

He told reporters upon arrival he would seek help from the Portuguese prosecutor's office "on many matters", but would not comment specifically on the dos Santos case.

Angolan authorities froze dos Santos' assets there in late December. On Sunday, hundreds of thousands of files about dos Santos that were obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) were released by several news organisations.

The media reports focused on alleged financial schemes used by dos Santos to build her business empire, including transfers between Angola and Dubai. Dos Santos, who has been living abroad, said on Sunday that allegations made against her were "completely unfounded". 

Angola’s attorney general arrived Thursday in Portugal to ask his country’s former colonial ruler for help investigating a major corruption case targeting the billionaire daughter of Angola’s former longtime leader.

late Wednesday in Luanda, Angolan capital, the country's attorney general Helder Pitta Gros announced the that Dos Santos is an official suspect in an investigation into mismanagement at Sonangol and misappropriation of company money.

(Reporting by Andrei Khalip, Sergio Goncalves and Catarina Demony Editing by Ingrid Melander, Peter Graff and Philippa Fletcher)


(AFP / CNBC)

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