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Updated May 25, 2020

 

Isabel dos Santos
Isabel dos Santos, Angolan businesswoman and eldest child of former president José Eduardo dos Santos.

 

Isabel dos Santos, the Angolan billionaire accused of embezzlement and money laundering, plans to challenge the freezing of her assets in Portugal before the European Court of Human Rights, according to her lawyer, Lusa Dan Morrison, a partner at the London-based litigation firm Grosvenor Law.

This follows the December 2019 order by the Luanda Provincial Court to freeze the Angolan bank accounts and seize shareholdings in local assets held by dos Santos, her husband Sindika Dokolo and their Portuguese business associate Mário Leite da Silva. The Angolan authorities called for international cooperation to investigate the dos Santos fortune, leading Portuguese prosecutors to freeze her assets in Portugal.

In his statement, Morrison alleges Angola’s case against his client is based on fake documents, building on the accusation by Isabel dos Santos that the proceedings against her are part of a coordinated witch hunt by the Angolan authorities and a form of retribution by President João Lourenço, who served alongside her father, former president José Eduardo dos Santos, during his thirty-eight years in power.

 

She became the richest woman in Africa, in one of the poorest countries in the world

 

In her position as head of state oil company Sonangol, before she was fired by Lourenço, dos Santos benefited from favorable government contracts orchestrated by her father and made use of a global network of consultants, bankers, and lawyers to help her amass a fortune and move it offshore. She became the richest woman in Africa, in one of the poorest countries in the world.

When Lourenço came into office in 2017, he launched an anti-corruption drive and pursued his predecessor’s daughter and son over accusations of siphoning billions from state coffers. He has received praise for his anti-graft stance and efforts to recover the assets, but some analysts argue he has been using the focus on the dos Santos family to consolidate power in his own party and to cover for the fact that his administration has failed to rectify broader, systemic issues of poverty.

 

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