Fighting corruption in Angola: a portrait for investors
A major anti-corruption drive was one of the main policy goals at the start of João Lourenço’s presidential term (2017).
Beyond the anti-corruption rhetoric since the drive began, the government passed two laws on the repatriation of capital, which it considered to be the cornerstone of its anti-corruption policy.
These laws are the Law on the Repatriation of Financial Resources, aka the Law on Voluntary Repatriation (LRV), Law No. 9/18, of June 26, and the Law on Coercive Repatriation and Extended Loss of Assets, aka the Repatriation Law and Coercive (LRC), Law No. 15/18, of 26 December.
These laws represent the executive’s commitment to ensure that funds diverted by corruption return to their rightful owner, the State. Later, in 2020, the National Assembly passed a new Penal Code and a new Penal Procedure Code.
Although these laws are structured for the entire State and the legal system, it should be noted that the new Penal Code has a specific chapter on Crimes linked to corrupt practices. Also, in public procurement, there were several changes aimed at strengthening transparency and the fight against corruption.
Public procurement legislation was amended by Law No. 41/20, of 23 December. In 2018, the government approved the Primer on Ethics and Conduct in Public Procurement, the Practical Guide for the Prevention and Management of Risks of Corruption and Related Infractions in Public Contracts and the Guide for Reporting Corruption and Related Infractions in Public Contracts.
In the area of financial information, mechanisms to control illicit flows and to prevent money laundering were clearly reinforced. Law no. 5/202 must be highlighted. It is about preventing and combating money laundering, financing of terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, resulting from the ratifications of the United Nations Conventions against the Illicit Traffic in Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances, against Crime Transnational Organised and on the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism. Additionally, important was Presidential Decree No. 2/18 of 9 January, which approved the Organic Statute of the Financial Information Unit, a public service specialised in the coordination of prevention and repression of money laundering, financing of terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
Therefore, there is a massive update of legislation against corruption and money laundering. The rhetoric was joined by the legislative acts.
The government chose not to create new bodies, and to base the execution of the anti-corruption policy on the already existing institutions: Attorney General’s Office, Banco Nacional de Angola, Financial Information Unit, Criminal Investigation Service, etc. However, at the level of the Attorney Generals, it created a sub-body with specific functions in the fight against corruption: the National Asset Recovery Service. This service was created by Law 15/18, of December 26. According to article 13 of that Law, the main task of this National Service is to proceed with the location, identification and seizure of assets, financial and non-financial assets or products related to crime, whether those assets are in Angola or outside the country. In addition, the Service has the competence to ensure international cooperation among its counterparts.
The practical functioning of the Service has been based on the opening of patrimonial investigations attached to the criminal proceedings that are under terms in the judicial authorities, with a view to investigating and identifying the location of assets that may be the subject of a confiscation order and the adoption of measures necessary for its recovery. There are several examples of the activity of the Asset Recovery Service. In July 2020, it ordered the seizure of three buildings, office and residential, called Três Torres, in Luanda. They were property of former Vice President of the Republic, Manuel Vicente. In September 2020, the Service determined the seizure of the minority shareholding of 49% of AAA Ativos in the SBA, as well as buildings of the AAA group, belonging to Carlos São Vicente, within the scope of the patrimonial investigation process linked to the criminal process that it concerns. In 2021, five housing projects were seized, namely Tambarino Project (Lobito, Benguela), Palanca Negra (Malanje), Mifongo Project (Malanje) and the Ex-Petro projects, in Golf II and Nova Vida III, both in Luanda. These are mere examples of a broad work that is being developed by this service dynamically directed by Public Prosecutor Eduarda Rodrigues.
Along with the asset recovery work described above, there has been a wide recourse to international judicial cooperation. First, it is important to highlight the requests addressed to and fulfilled by Portugal. The activity with Portugal has been immense, since the legal letters referring to Isabel dos Santos and her associates have already led to several “freezes” of shareholdings on Portuguese territory.
The Central Court of Criminal Investigation froze the bank accounts in Portugal of three friends of Isabel dos Santos, at the request of the judicial authorities of Angola. The seizure of the accounts of Mário Leite da Silva, Paula Oliveira and Sarju Raikundalia was carried out in the context of a ‘rogatory’ letter sent from Angola to Portugal in January 2020.
In that letter, the Angolan authorities requested the preventive seizure in Portugal of assets of Isabel dos Santos and her three friends up to a total value of €1.15Bn, as a guarantee of possible future compensation to Angola.
The Angolan attorney general reported that requests for cooperation were made to Switzerland, Holland, Luxembourg, United Kingdom, Singapore, Bermuda, United Arab Emirates, Mauritius, Kingdom of Monaco, Malta, Isle of Man and others. Within the scope of international cooperation, the Attorney General’s Office has already requested the seizure and seizure of assets worth approximately US$5Bn.
All the activity that has been described has shown quantifiable results that are reproduced here:
• Since the beginning of the fight against corruption, the Angolan State has definitively recovered in cash and goods a total of around US$5.3Bn.
• In addition, it asked to seize US$5.4Bn in foreign jurisdictions.
• In Angola, assets worth around US$ 4Bn have already been seized. Such assets are still subject to the respective lawsuits still pending, awaiting a final decision at first instance or on appeal.
• 1522 criminal cases were opened regarding corruption-related crime and the like.
In terms of criminal charges, the prosecutor’s office has handed down charges against a variety of senior dignitaries. Noteworthy are the accusatory orders against: General Sachipengo Nunda, former Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, Norberto Garcia, former director of the External Investment Agency (both meanwhile acquitted) Valter Filipe, former Governor of the central bank, José Filomeno dos Santos, former CEO from the Sovereign Fund, Augusto Tomás, former Minister of Transport, Manuel Rabelais, former Minister of Social Communication, Carlos São Vicente, former President of the AAA Group.
In addition to these personalities, there are a myriad of cases at the provincial level.
In what concerns the “freezing” of assets, the assets of Manuel Vicente and generals Dino and Kopelipa, among others, were seized or handed over.
What is to be concluded is that there is a sweeping movement against corruption in Angola and this is taking place every day. www.cedesa.pt