Africa’s richest woman accused of fraud

Africa’s richest woman, Isabel dos Santos, has been formally accused of embezzlement by prosecutors in Angola.

Attorney General Helder Pitta Gros, said the allegations related to her time as chairwoman of state oil firm Sonangol.

An international arrest warrant would be issued for Ms dos Santos and five others, who all live abroad, if they did not present themselves, he said.

Ms dos Santos recently denied alleged corruption revealed by leaked documents.

She also told the BBC she was considering running for Angola’s presidency. Ms dos Santos currently lives in the UK.

What is she accused of?

Prosecutors are seeking to recover $1bn (£760m) that Ms dos Santos and her associates are alleged to owe the state.

“Isabel dos Santos is accused of mismanagement and embezzlement of funds during her tenure at Sonangol,” Mr Pitta Gros told a news conference on Wednesday evening.

He said that as a result she was being charged with “money laundering, influence peddling, harmful management…[and] forgery of documents, among other economic crimes”.

Ms dos Santos was controversially appointed head of Sonangol in June 2016 by her father, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who was president at the time. She was sacked from the post in 2017 by President Joao Lourenço, her father’s handpicked successor.

An investigation into Ms dos Santos’s 18 months as head of Sonangol was opened after her successor, Carlos Saturnino, alerted authorities to alleged irregular money transfers. Her assets in Angola have been frozen.

What is in the leaked documents?

On Sunday, the BBC and other news organisations reported on more than 700,000 leaked documents about the billionaire’s business empire.

The documents show how Ms dos Santos got access to lucrative land, oil, diamond and telecoms deals when her father was president. Her fortune is estimated at $2.1 bn (£1.6bn).

They also show how Western firms helped Ms dos Santos take her money out of Angola.

Earlier this week a top executive at financial services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers left the firm over its links with Ms dos Santos. The company declined to comment on the departure and said it had launched its own investigation.

On Wednesday Portuguese bank EuroBic said it would end its business relationship with Ms dos Santos, who is reportedly the bank’s main shareholder through two companies she owns.

The bank added that it would investigate transfers worth tens of millions of dollars she made. Some of the transfers drained Sonangol’s account at EuroBic, the New York Times reports.

 

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