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Isabel dos Santos charged with money laundering

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Via Financial Times

Angola’s attorney-general has brought charges of money laundering against Isabel dos Santos as the legal net around the daughter of the country’s former president tightened following revelations over the alleged source of her $2bn fortune.

Helder Pitta Gros said he had indicted Ms dos Santos as a probe into alleged embezzlement of funds from Sonangol, the state oil company she once chaired, entered a “decisive phase”, Angolan state media reported on Thursday.

Mr Pitta Gros added that the government could issue an international arrest warrant for Ms dos Santos if she did not voluntarily submit for questioning.

The indictment is the latest challenge for Ms Santos whose assets were frozen by the Angolan government earlier this month after prosecutors said she and her husband, Congolese art collector Sindika Dokolo, had failed to return more than $1bn in state funds.

Scrutiny of Ms dos Santos’s business empire increased this week after the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists accused Ms dos Santos of using her position as the former leader’s daughter to siphon hundreds of millions of dollars from Angola through consulting fees to Sonangol and other schemes.

The allegations stem from 715,000 leaked emails, charts, contracts, audits and accounts that were initially obtained by the Platform to Protect Whistleblowers in Africa, an anti-corruption charity, and shared with the ICIJ.

Ms dos Santos could not be immediately reached for comment on the indictment but has repeatedly denied all allegations of wrongdoing.

“This is an orchestrated and well-co-ordinated political attack by the current regime in Angola, which sees me as a threat,” she said this week. “Nowhere have the ICIJ even attempted to prove that my commercial endeavours have been at the expense of the Angolan people, because they can’t.”

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Ms dos Santos, Africa’s richest woman, was appointed chairwoman of Sonangol under her father, José Eduardo dos Santos, who ruled Angola for 38 years and stepped down in 2017.

President Joao Lourenço was handpicked by Mr dos Santos to succeed him but soon after he took office Mr Lourenço set about removing Ms dos Santos and other members of the former leader’s family from state posts.

Ms dos Santos is also facing growing pressure in Portugal, Angola’s former colonial ruler, where she has several investments.

On Wednesday Eurobic, a Lisbon-based private bank, said that Ms dos Santos was selling her 42.5 per cent stake in the lender. Since the leak, Eurobic has faced heavy scrutiny over its handling of offshore payments.

The sale “has already started, which given the existence of interested parties, should assure its completion very soon”, Eurobic said in a statement.

The bank said earlier that it would cut business ties with Ms dos Santos and her associates.

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