Angolan Power Play: $734M Frozen From Ex-Billionaire Dos Santos in London Thaw.
Isabel dos Santos, once recognized as Africa’s wealthiest woman and daughter of former Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, is embroiled in a legal dispute with telecommunications firm Unitel SA, resulting in the freezing of her assets estimated at £580 million ($734 million) in a London court ruling.
The legal contention arose as Angolan company Unitel took legal action against dos Santos and her Dutch holding company, Unitel International Holdings BV (UIH), alleging defaults on loans worth approximately €325 million and $44 million. These loans were intended to finance UIH’s investments in various telecommunications enterprises. Despite sharing similar names, the two entities involved in the lawsuit do not have direct corporate connections.
Dos Santos, who has been residing outside Angola, faces this significant freeze on her assets, marking another episode in a series of legal disputes and controversies involving her and her business dealings.
The former wealthiest woman in Africa saw a drastic change in fortune in 2020 when she was ousted from the list of the continent’s richest due to accusations of embezzlement and money laundering. Angolan authorities froze her assets, alleging her involvement in the misappropriation of over $5 billion during her father’s rule.
Her legal team claimed the lawsuit was politically motivated, asserting that it was orchestrated by the Angolan government amid political rivalries.
Suspicions about the financial practices of her father, former President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, have long persisted. Dos Santos’ wealth accumulation through preferential allocation of companies, public contracts, tax breaks, and other means was laid bare in the 2020 Luanda Leaks.
The investigation revealed her acquisition of wealth through various privileges and positions, including her role as chief executive of the state oil company Sonangol, from which she was removed by the new Angolan President, Joao Lourenco, in 2017.
In a significant move, INTERPOL issued a Red Notice urging governments to provisionally arrest dos Santos pending local legal proceedings.