Angolan Government, Companies and dos Santos Respond to The Luanda Leaks
Angola's capital Luanda at night. (Bruno Fonseca/ICIJ)
After several stories based on the Luanda Leaks were published earlier this week detailing how Africa’s richest woman, Isabel dos Santos, built a business empire with access to state funds from Angola, the Angolan government, Western companies named in the report, and dos Santos herself responded to the investigation.
On Jan. 20, Angola’s prosecutor general, Hélder Pitra Grós, declared he would use “all possible means and… international mechanisms” to bring dos Santos back to the country. Angola’s government had already frozen the businesswoman’s assets, saying it is trying to recoup $1 billion it is owed.
In an interview with BBC Africa, dos Santos denied any wrongdoing, saying all the transactions documented in the papers were “perfectly legal.” On Twitter, dos Santos said the documents were leaked by the country’s intelligence services to further her opponents’ “political agenda.”
Dos Santos also reiterated a point she has stressed for years, saying she was first and foremost an entrepreneur. “I build companies and enterprises,” she wrote. “I invest and create jobs.” In 2018, dos Santos left Angola after her father, José Eduardo dos Santos, stepped down as president. She recently told Portuguese media she was mulling her own presidential run.
Some of the companies named in the investigation have also responded. On Jan. 20, a PwC spokesperson said the company was investigating the “serious and concerning allegations” and had terminated all work for the dos Santos family. Interviewed at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, the company’s global chairman, Bob Moritz said employees may face consequences over the affair, including losing their jobs.
The same day, the company’s Lisbon employees were told that Jaime Esteves, lead of the company’s tax department in Angola, Cape Verde and Portugal, had stepped down from his position, though he remains at the firm, according to newspaper and ICIJ partner Observador. Esteves said in Portuguese that the move was due to the “seriousness” of ICIJ’s allegations.
Also on Monday, BancoBic — a Portuguese bank featured in the ICIJ investigation, which is partly owned by dos Santos — said it had ended its “commercial relationship” with the businesswoman. It confirmed in a statement that it had opened an internal investigation into payments made using one of its subsidiaries by Sonangol, Angola’s state oil company, which was briefly headed by dos Santos.
Clarification: This story has been updated to clarify that Esteves remains at PwC.