Company linked to Isabel dos Santos ordered to return €83 million
A Portuguese court has ordered that €83 million syphoned from Angola’s State oil company Sonangol into a company owned by Isabel dos Santos, should be returned.
The money had been seized from a company called Esperanza held by the daughter of the former Angolan president José Eduardo dos Santos in December 2021.
The holding company which was linked to the Angolan oil company and Exem Energy had its accounts frozen in Portugal. Now, Judge Ivo Rosa has decided that the €83 million should be returned to Sonangol.
The case goes back to December 2021, following a request from Esperanza that demanded funds of €83 million frozen in its accounts be unblocked.
The amount, which was seized in April 2021, as part of legal investigations related to Isabel dos Santos and the Luanda Leaks scandal, was considered by the court as belonging exclusively to Sonangol.
The Luanda Leaks are a trove of 715,000 emails, charts, contracts, audits, and accounts that help explain how Dos Santos built a corrupt business empire worth an estimated US$2Bn.
Dos Santos 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.
Dos Santos has denied that she benefited unfairly from her father’s position, and said moves by the Angolan government to freeze her and her husband’s assets were a political “witch-hunt”. The couple strenuously deny wrongdoing of any kind. Dos Santos told the BBC. “I can say my holdings are commercial, there are no proceeds from contracts or public contracts or money that has been deviated from other funds.”
In the dispatch signed by Ivo Rosa which the news agency Lusa had access to, the judge concluded that given new proofs, neither the quantities seized in Esperanza’s bank accounts constituted a “product or advantage” of the “crime of abuse of trust, corruption”, nor could the bank operations in question could be “constituted money laundering operations”, the amount in question resulted from the “dividends paid to Esperanza by Amorim Energia”.
In July last year, a court in the Netherlands, however, decided in favour of Sonangol, recognising Sonangol as the sole owner of Esperanza Holding BV, in a case that opposes the Angolan company Exem Energy.
This joint venture, in which Sonangol held 60% of the shares and Exem 40%, controls 45% of Amorim Energia which in turn is a major shareholder in Galp (with 33.34% of the share capital).
Esperanza Holding B.V. is an Angolan holding based in Amsterdam. The shareholders of this holding are Sonangol and Isabel dos Santos.