Recovering dos Santos’ billions: Angolan AG in request for cooperation with Malta

Malta may get to keep some of the loot as Angolan asset recovery agency floats ‘asset-sharing agreements' with partner countries


The Angolan attorney general’s office has filed a request for cooperation with Malta as the African country steps up its hunt for billions in funds its former president’s daughter, Isabel dos Santos, embezzled out of the country.

The Luanda Leaks exposed how dos Santos, once Africa’s richest woman, and her late husband – Congolese businessman Sindika Dokolo – set up a complex web of shell companies to channel illicit funds from embezzlement, money laundering and trading in influence.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) investigation showed how insider deals, political connections and a multitude of Western enablers helped dos Santos amass a fortune after being handed deals in oil, diamonds, beer production and telecommunications, among others.

Angola is now on a quest to recoup those funds and the hunt is increasingly leading to Malta, where dos Santos and her husband set up a total of 14 such shell companies in which untold millions have been stashed or laundered over the years.

While it is not known how much of the stolen State funds have been stashed away in Malta or in dos Santos’ Maltese companies, Malta may eventually be able to get its hands on some of it, with the Angolan National Asset Recovery Service (SENRA) floating the idea of striking ‘asset-sharing agreements’ with cooperating countries.

It believes such agreements will create an added incentive for cooperation in enforcing confiscation orders by other countries. Along with Malta, the Angolan AG has also requested cooperation from Switzerland, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, the United Kingdom, Singapore, Bermuda, the United Arab Emirates, Mauritius, Monaco and the Isle of Man.

In the meantime, Angolan Finance Minister Vera Daves de Sousa has announced the country is considering the creation of a specialised fund to manage the $15 billion in assets already recovered by anti-corruption investigators.

Angolan Finance Minister Vera Daves de Sousa

Since 2017, when João Lourenço became president, the government has stepped up efforts to recover assets allegedly stolen during the four-decade presidency of his predecessor, José Eduardo dos Santos.

SENRA believes that there could still be well over $100 billion in unrecovered assets as it believes members of the dos Santos family, former government officials, and ex-managers of state-owned companies illegally transferred some $150 billion abroad between 2001 and 2017.

Dos Santos’ Malta companies

The Angolan Supreme Court recently ordered the preventive seizure of $1 billion of assets from Isabel dos Santos, including potentially millions of euros allegedly embezzled and held in shell companies in Malta.

In its ruling on Tuesday, the Angolan Supreme court called specifically for the preventive seizure of 70% of the shares of Mozambique telecommunications company Mstar and 70% of dos Santos’ shares in the Portuguese Upstar Comunicação.

The shareholding in those two companies is owned by dos Santos – the daughter of former Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos – through just one of the 14 shell companies she and her husband incorporated in Malta.

The Angolan court determined in its ruling that dos Santos is indeed the ultimate beneficial owner of the telecommunications companies through her ownership of the St Julian’s-registered shell company Kento Holding Limited.

It also holds 70% stakes in both Upstar Comunicação and Mstar of Mozambique, which were ordered to be preventively seized.

According to the ICIJ’s investigation, Malta had the third-highest number of companies linked to the couple’s business empire (14), after Angola itself (81 companies) and Portugal (17 companies).

Malta had more financial companies involved when compared to Portugal (13 compared to 11 in Portugal). As such, it would appear that a significant portion of dos Santos’ alleged ill-gotten wealth was stored in her Maltese companies.


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8 days ago

I wonder whether the AG of Angola has noticed the reputation of Malta when it comes to international cooperation. The article doesn’t tell, so I have to presume, that she might not be aware of what has happened in Malta during the past couple of years and where the executive has failed badly. With an AG like the person who still holds that office in Malta, one shouldn’t anticipate that much in regards of cooperation, let alone in results.

I can only imagine that this story would make some of the ‘Korrotti Malti tal’PL’ blush in envy in regards of the amount of money that is involved in this case. Either way, the content of this article in regards of Malta raises questions which I doubt will be answered.

Why should the present Maltese govt be that cooperative, as it is expected of it in regards of the application made by the Angolan govt, when it hardly can come clean with its own domestic issues of similar cases in Malta? I presume that the Angolan govt is rather in for being disappointed by the Maltese govt, as long as the PL is in power and this is set to be until 2027.

7 days ago
Reply to  Thomas

Knowing how much this country worships money I think you will find we will be biting there hands to help them?

Joseph Licari
8 days ago

Who are or were Isabel dos Santos’ Maltese lawyers?

8 days ago
Reply to  Joseph Licari

Noel Buttigieg Scicluna

7 days ago
Reply to  Joseph Licari

Refer to the ICIJ Luanda Leaks report and the shell companies were at the time listed in their reports and the MBR held full details including shareholders, legal/judicial representatives, directors and auditors. Whether that information is still available from the MBR is another question, but if it isn’t that must surely open another can of worms as to who wants that information removed from scrutiny and why?

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