Bank of Portugal to investigate Eurobic

 In News

Both entities have distance themselves from disgraced tycoon Isabel dos Santos

A bank in Portugal whose main shareholder is the Angolan tycoon Isabel dos Santos has joined the Bank of Portugal in distancing itself from the affairs and activities of the disgraced businesswoman at the centre of the Luanda Leaks scandal which broke over the weekend.
In two communiques released almost simultaneously, Lisbon-based bank Eurobic, led by Fernando Teixeira dos Santos, a former minister of finance, and the Bank of Portugal led by Carlos Costa, have effectively said in their statements that they are ring-fencing their respective institutions to protect them from the fallout of the scandal which broke over the weekend.
Isabel dos Santos, the richest woman in Africa and daughter of ex-president of Angola, José Eduardo dos Santos, has been uncovered by an investigation involving a number of International newspapers and television channels such as the Portuguese weekly Espresso, the TV channels BBC and SIC TV, the Guardian, Le Monde and the New York Times for allegedly syphoning off millions of US dollars from the state-owned Angolan oil company Sonangol and using it to build a US$2Bn empire of assets in property and companies in various countries, including Portugal, Monaco and the UK.
The Luanda Leaks are a collection of 715,000 emails, charts, contracts, audits, and accounts that help explain how Isabel dos Santos built her business empire worth an estimated $US2Bn.The Angolan tycoon has made her name, and fortune through key roles and investments in some of Angola’s most important industries. She holds stakes in oil, telecoms and banking, was head of the state’s oil business, and was behind lucrative plans, since scrapped, to redevelop a vast area of Angola’s capital, Luanda.In Portugal she has shareholding stakes in Galp Energia, an oil and gas company, telecoms and media giant NOS and banks Eurobic and Formento de Angola.But Isabel dos Santos also has influence is around 18 other companies in Portugal and in the island of Madeira.

Isabel dos Santos controls 40% of Esperaza in partnership with Sonangol which has 60%.Esperaza is a holding of Amorim Energia with 45%, the other 55% belonging to the Amorim family. This holding has 33.44% of Galp and the tycoon as 6% of the Portuguese oil and gas company. In 2006 the Sonangol shares were sold to a company owned by Isabel dos Santos. She had initially paid 15% of the total while around US$70 million were “lent” by Sonangol to be repaid within 11 years, In 2017 dos Santos offered to pay the full amount while the US$9 million in loan interest was swept under the carpet.

In 2015, the company Winterfell paid €200 million to buy 66.1% of the capital in Efacec Power Solutions to the José de Mello and Têxtil Manuel Gonçalves groups. With around 2000 employees, the unions have demanded a meeting with the board of directors to voice their concerns.

Zopt, owned by Isabel dos Santos is a majority shareholder in telecoms company NOS (52.15% of capital). Isabel dos Santos lawyer, Jorge Brito Pereira is the chairman of NOS while another friend involved in various offshores is a non-executive director. NOS is also a shareholder in ZAP in Angola which is also owned by dos Santos.In terms of personal property assets, the disgraced tycoon owns property at Quinta do Lago in the Algarve, a seven-parking space condominium on Lisbon’s Avenida António Augusto de Aguiar and a duplex property on the capital’s Avenida da Liberdade.

Eurobic, stated this week that it has decided to no longer conduct business with Isabel dos Santos or people close to her (she is one of the bank’s major shareholders), while the Bank of Portugal is considering prohibiting her voting rights as a shareholder in Eurobic.
On Sunday, when an international consortium of investigative journalists (ICIJ) revealed documents that indicated that Isabel dos Santos transferred millions of dollars from Angola’s state oil firm’s bank accounts, leaving it with only US$309 to a shell consultancy company in Dubai, Matter Business Solutions using Eurobic bank an immediate and embarrassing question was begging: Did the bank’s directors and management meet their obligations concerning money laundering?
And had the Bank of Portugal fulfilled its obligations in its role as supervisor? Within 24 hours Eurobic and the Bank of Portugal released statements with Eurobic stating its was cutting its ties with its main shareholder, while the Bank of Portugal insists that it will investigate how Eurobic did or did not comply with due diligence rules, but added that evaluating the professional and financial honesty of the shareholders and directors of the bank would always be on the table.
The transfers by Isabel dos Santos through various banks, who former Portuguese MEP Ana Gomes referred to on Portuguese television on Sunday as a “beautiful, charming, clever and intelligent woman, but also a tremendous thief” began on 16 November 2017 with US$38 million wired to a bank account in Dubai. A short time after another US$15 exited, followed by a third for US$4 million.
At the start of business, Sonangol’s account had contained US$57 million. By the close of business it had just US$309.
Isabel dos Santos says the Angolan government is presenting a series of highly-selective or even fake documents to attack her. “Today I’m facing charges that are completely false. These allegations have absolutely no grounds whatsoever and are politically motivated,” she told the BBC.