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Updated Jan 26, 2020

Isabel dos Santos, Africa’s richest woman and the subject of scrutiny in the Luanda Leaks, hired a US-based lobbying firm a day after she learned that the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and a host of other media outlets were planning to expose the roots of her business empire. They ultimately found numerous discrepancies and the use of unscrupulous means to siphon billions of dollars from Angola’s oil and diamond sectors for her own gain. Angola’s attorney general charged dos Santos with money laundering on Thursday, January 23, and Portugal’s market regulator announced it is opening an investigation based on information revealed in the Luanda Leaks.

Dos Santos hired Sonoran Policy Group, which has close ties to the Donald Trump administration and a history of assisting autocratic governments such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The two contracts with Sonoran, valued at $2.2 million, have tasked the firm with arranging meetings with “United States and United Kingdom stakeholders” and to “advise and place media” on dos Santos’s behalf. One of the contracts was signed by dos Santos and the other was furnished by Mário Leite de Silva, the former president of Banco de Fomento Angola and a key suspect in Angola’s criminal investigation into dos Santos’s business affairs.

Sonoran was hired through Terra Peregrin, a Lisbon-based firm with connections to a dos Santos-owned offshore company called Wise Intelligence, which secured millions in state contracts. They were hired on December 13, a day after the ICIJ contacted her for comment on their reporting. Neither dos Santos nor Sonoran responded to interview requests regarding the recent hiring.

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