Angola seeks Portugal's help in major corruption case

Angola’s attorney general is in Portugal to ask his country’s former colonial ruler for help investigating a major corruption case

LISBON, Portugal -- Angola’s attorney general arrived Thursday in Portugal to ask his country’s former colonial ruler for help investigating a major corruption case targeting the billionaire daughter of Angola’s former longtime leader.

Angolan authorities suspect that Isabel dos Santos, reputedly Africa’s richest woman, embezzled millions of dollars from the state oil company Sonangol, which she once headed.

Angolan attorney general Helder Pitta Gros announced late Wednesday in Luanda, the Angolan capital, that Dos Santos is an official suspect in an investigation into mismanagement at Sonangol and misappropriation of company money.

Four others, all believed to be close to Dos Santos, are suspects in the investigation, which was started after Dos Santos' successor at Sonangol alerted authorities. All the suspects are living outside Angola, Pitta Gros said.

One of them, Mario Silva, a Portuguese businessman thought to be Dos Santos' right-hand man, stepped down Thursday as chairman of the board of Banco de Fomento Angola, the Luanda-based bank announced on its website.

Dos Santos has denied any wrongdoing. She has numerous business interests in Portugal, including a majority shareholding in a Portuguese bank. Senior Angolan officials have long made major investments in Portuguese real estate and companies.

Pitta Gros told Portuguese public broadcaster RTP at Lisbon airport he planned to meet with his Portuguese counterpart Lucilia Gago. He said he had traveled to Lisbon “to ask for a lot of things,” but he didn't elaborate. Portuguese officials didn't confirm the meeting.

Last December, a Luanda court froze Dos Santos' major assets, which include banks and a telecom company. The government says it is trying to recover $1.1 billion it says the country is owed by Dos Santos, her husband and a close associate of the couple.

Dos Santos was appointed head of Sonangol by her father, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, before he stepped down in 2017 after 38 years in power. Human rights groups long accused Jose Eduardo dos Santos of heading a kleptocracy which left most people in the oil- and diamond-rich country living in poverty.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists earlier this week accused Isabel dos Santos of using “unscrupulous deals” to build her fortune, estimated at $2 billion.

The allegations were based on more than 715,000 confidential financial and business records provided by the Platform to Protect Whistleblowers in Africa, an advocacy group based in Paris, as well as hundreds of interviews. The cache of documents is known as the Luanda Leaks.