Dictator’s daughter who laundered millions through Malta to face court

The daughter of the authoritarian former president of Angola, who used 14 shell companies in Malta to funnel her ill-gotten funds, has been charged with 12 crimes related to allegations she defrauded the country of $219 million.

The charges relate to her time as the head of state-owned oil company Sonangol, where she is accused of funnelling public money through a network of offshore companies, including in Malta, using fraudulent documents, forged invoices, and extremely high salary increases between 2016 and 2017.

Santos has been charged with crimes including tax fraud, embezzlement, and money laundering, according to a report by the ICIJ. The trial is expected to start at the end of January.

The indictment states, “As the daughter of the former President of the Republic, the defendant Isabel dos Santos, in consultation with the defendants Mario Silva, Sarju Raikundalia and Paula Oliveira, meticulously created a plan to defraud the Angolan State.”

Santos denies all the charges against her and claims that this case, and others in many cases, are part of a political vendetta.

Indeed, Santos has been under investigation since 2020 when the ICIJ revealed in the Luanda Leaks how she made a fortune from deals in diamonds, oil, banking, telecoms and real estate while her father, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, was president.

It is alleged that using lawyers and accountants in Malta, as well as Portugal and various other ‘offshore’ locations, dos Santos used her family name and “insider dealmaking”, according to ICIJ, to build an “empire of businesses and luxury properties on four continents.”

At the time, she was also rising through the ranks to take the helm of Sonangol, which prosecutors say she did by using deception to gain power, which she used to violate the firm’s governance.

Before she took power of the oil company in 2016, she and those working under her instruction set up a web of shell companies in Malta and Dubai. These companies then obtained no-bid contracts with the state firm despite not having experience in the sector or any form of business management.

The case was then picked up by Angolan prosecutors who decided to act against her and several of her associates.

Prosecutors say dos Santos and her associates relieved the State of at least $219 million while she paid herself a salary of over $50,000 a month. It is as yet unclear how much of the money was passed through Maltese shell companies.

But in March 2021, Kento Holding, incorporated in Malta, was fined €191,000 by the Maltese tax authorities, which then investigated the company’s activities.

It found the company had no economic activity in Malta and was not entitled to the VAT refund it claimed.

In 2020, Interpol issued a red notice against her and last month, she lost a case in the UK’s High Court to halt an asset freeze.

ICIJ’s Luanda Leaks investigation was based on over 715,000 documents, that included reams of emails, charts, contracts, audits, and accounts. The documents revealed that dos Santos built a business empire worth at least $2 billion in 20 years.

The Platform to Protect Whistleblowers in Africa, an organisation based in France, obtained the files and shared them with ICIJ and its partners which then spearheaded the investigation.


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Joseph Cutajar
Joseph Cutajar
1 month ago

If I may ask who was the Maltese legal representative of dos Santos in Malta?

1 month ago
Reply to  Joseph Cutajar

The information is available on the ICIJ data base, and is in the public domain but the name of Noel Buttigieg Scicluna features regularly as a legal representative.

I also understand that Ganado Advocates were involved in some of her Maltese shell companies but I’m not too sure in what capacity, but again I think that information would be available from the ICIJ website.

1 month ago

Money the root of all evil , and when the County’s leaders were pigging around from day 1 , the message is ,” Make Hay While the Sun Shines”.

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