Angola: Portuguese Hacker Identified As 'Luanda Leaks' Mole

An illustration from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists #Luanda Leaks investigation.

The fallout from the 'Luanda Leaks' scandal continues to reverberate across the continent as well as Europe and the Middle East where the continent's wealthiest woman is digging in her heels, notes Legalbrief . In the latest development, a Portuguese hacker has taken responsibility for disclosing hundreds of thousands of files revealing how billionaire Isabel dos Santos built her vast business empire, his lawyers said today.

Rui Pinto is already awaiting trial in a Lisbon jail for extortion and other crimes. The Daily Maverick reports that his defence team says he was acting in the public interest.

Lawyers William Bourdon and Francisco Teixeira da Mota confirmed that their client was also behind the 'Luanda Leaks' – more than 700 000 documents 'containing all data related to the recent revelations concerning Isabel dos Santos' fortune, her family's and all the actors that might be involved'.

They said Pinto gave a hard drive with the documents to the Platform to Protect Whistleblowers in Africa late last year. The organisation passed it to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which, along with 37 media partners, released findings last week.

Angola has announced that Dos Santos and several associates are the targets of a criminal investigation. The report notes that banks, consultancy and accountancy firms have distanced themselves from her and her associates, announcing internal investigations into business dealings with her. 'Without the immense revelations, made possible thanks to our client, the regulatory, police and judicial authorities would have done nothing,' the lawyers said.  Full Daily Maverick report

Legalbrief reports that there have been several high-profile casualties linked to the former first daughter and many more can be expected.

The head of one of Angola's largest banks has resigned after being named in the corruption probe. Mario Leite da Silva, who was chairperson of Banco de Fomento Angola, the third largest bank in the country, made his announcement after his name appeared in a trove of leaked documents alleging illicit enrichment by the billionaire daughter of former President Jose Eduardo dos Santos.

And Portuguese banker Nuno Ribeiro da Cunha, who was implicated in the same scandal, has died from an apparent suicide. A report on the News24 site notes that he was the head of private banking at Eurobic and Dos Santos' account manager. Prosecutor-General Helder Pitta Gros said Dos Santos was among five suspects, all currently residing abroad. This follows the publication of more than 715 000 files which were investigated by 120 reporters in 20 countries. Full report on the News24 site

Dos Santos has slammed the allegations against her and plans to sue the Angolan Government, notes a BBC News report. 'The allegations which have been made against me over the past few days are extremely misleading and untrue. This is a very concentrated, orchestrated and well-coordinated political attack, ahead of elections in Angola next year. It is an attempt to neutralise me and to discredit the legacy of President Dos Santos and his family,' she wrote.

She said the 'stolen' documents have been leaked selectively 'to give a false impression of my business activities'. 'I am a private businesswoman who has spent 20 years building successful companies from the ground up, creating over 20 000 jobs and generating huge tax revenue for Angola. Last year my businesses paid over $100m in tax. I have always operated within the law and all my commercial transactions have been approved by lawyers, banks, auditors and regulators,' she added. Full BBC News report

The collaboration of African political elites with Western accounting and consulting firms has enabled the wholesale looting of state-owned enterprises in Angola and SA. That's the view of Shannon Ebrahim in reponse to the 'scandal which exposes the collusion between Dos Santos and the 'Big Four' Western accounting firms, top consulting companies and banks that facilitated the looting of Angola.

In an analysis on the IoL site, Ebrahim notes that by 2013, Citibank, Barclays and Deutsche Bank had cut ties with the Dos Santos business empire over concerns about the sources of money.

' Despite the fact that major banks had serious questions over the legitimacy of the Dos Santos business transactions and had turned their backs on them, accounting firms continued to do work for their companies, and made millions. It was in this way that it has been alleged that Western firms facilitated the looting of the Angolan state, most particularly the Big Four – PwC, KPMG, Deloitte, and EY. What has become clear is that the Big Four are central to the operation of global capitalism, and while they are supposed to verify the role of financial accounts for stakeholders, they have instead developed tax avoidance practices and become facilitators of corruption and corporate malfeasance.'

Ebrahim notes that the coalescing of the auditing and accounting functions of the Big Four with corporate consultancy and tax advice services has become 'deeply problematic'.

' They have global networks of affiliated firms which help to conceal, accumulate and move massive volumes of illicit wealth. While the companies of KPMG, for example, operate under a common name and common standards, they are not under common ownership, which reduces legal and regulatory risk. In this way, KPMG international cannot be held liable for what happens with its Angolan or South African partners.' Full analysis on the IoL site

Angolans are calling for an international investigation into the world-wide dealings that allowed Dos Santos to become the richest woman in Africa.

German public broadcasters NDR and WDR, together with the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung , found that the beverage company Sodiba, owned by Dos Santos and her husband, Sindika Dokolo, received a loan of $55m from a subsidiary of the German development bank KfW without a prior comprehensive examination of the business. The loan was used by Dos Santos to purchase a beer brewing plant and two bottling lines from German company Krones AG in 2015. Dos Santos' father allegedly used his influence to get the investment project approved.

Activist Rafael Marques de Morais says that it is 'only fair' that countries like Germany now help investigate how international actors enabled her to acquire a vast fortune. '(German chancellor) Angela Merkel is visiting Angola (next month) and that issue must be raised,' he told Deutsche Welle .

Robert Besseling, the executive director of EXX Africa which assesses business risks, said he believed the government seems to be pressuring associates, family and business to give up the assets of key companies in Angola and elsewhere 'at the very moment when there is a privatisation agenda'. Full report on the Deutsche Welle site

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