Angola: Isabel dos Santos Ordered to Return to Angola U.S.$500 Million in Shares 'Tainted by Illegality'

A #LuandaLeaks illustration, showing how Isabel Dos Santos exploited family ties, shell companies and inside deals to build an empire.
press release

Isabel dos Santos, at one time the wealthiest woman in Africa, must surrender one of her last remaining major assets, a stake in the Portuguese energy company Galp worth an estimated $500 million, an international tribunal in the Netherlands has ruled.

In its 2020 Luanda Leaks investigation, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists revealed that dos Santos and her husband Sindika Dokolo had obtained the stake for just a $15 million initial deposit, in a controversial deal made with Angola’s state oil company — overseen at the time by dos Santos’ father, Angola’s then-president Jose Eduardo dos Santos.

The deal “cannot be explained but for grand corruption by the daughter of a head of state and her husband,” the tribunal ruled, declaring it “null and void.” The ruling, made public last week, was first reported by Dutch newspaper and ICIJ partner, Het Financieele Dagblad.

Luanda Leaks reporting showed how insider deals, political connections and an army of Western enablers helped dos Santos amass a fortune. The exposé revealed how the billionaire and her allies benefited from lucrative deals in diamonds, telecommunications, banking and real estate.

The investigation had a profound impact on the dos Santos family. Angolan and Portuguese authorities froze dos Santos’ assets and bank accounts and launched criminal investigations. The business empire was largely dismantled.

The inside dealmaking that led to the acquisition of the Galp shares, revealed in part through leaked documents, was featured in the Luanda Leaks reporting.

In 2006, Angola’s state oil company, Sonangol, sold 40% of its interest in joint venture company Esperaza to Exem Energy, a Dutch firm owned by Dokolo. Sonangol then sold to Dokolo’s company a $99 million stake for an initial $15 million deposit. That same stake is now worth more than $500 million.

The deal was “tainted by illegality, enabling Ms dos Santos directly or through her husband Mr. Dokolo, while using her position as daughter of the Angolan President … to reap an extraordinary financial gain to the detriment of … Angola,” according to the ruling.

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