On November 21, 2017, AfroAmerica Network pointed to a major event that appeared to signal the dawn of a new era in Africa: President Joao Manuel Goncalves Lourenco, nicknamed "JLo", hand-picked by then President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos to replace him, won presidential elections. He was viewed as the continuation of the Dos Santos' legacy. Less than 3 years later, President Joao Lourenco has changed the system and started cracking down on pervasive corruption, targeting top leaders and personalities, including the closest aides, the family members and the relatives of former President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos.
How did Angola and Angolans get to that level of corruption within their government and institutions?
Wide-reaching Anti-Corruption Campaign: Family Members, Relatives and Closest Aides.
On October 14, 2020, Angolan prosecutors seized assets belonging to two of former President Jose Eduardo dos Santos’s closest aides. Speaking in a state-of-the-nation address on Thursday; October 14, 2020, Angolan President Joao Lourenco said that around $23.8 billion of stolen funds under President Dos Santos's regime were identified and that investigations are still on going with even more stolen funds to be uncovered. The assets were stolen from the state, mostly through fraudulent contracts with government-owned companies.
The two of former President Jose Eduardo dos Santos’s closest aides cited in the latest corruption scandals are General Manuel Helder Vieira Dias, known as Kopelipa, and Leopoldino do Nascimento, known as Dino. Based on the statement from the prosecution, Angola's prosecutors seized their assets including residences, a brewery, a vehicle assembly plant, shares in a sugar plant, a supermarket chain, and a cement factory and buildings. Among the targets of the corruption probe are Dos Santos’ children. On August 14, 2020, Jose Filomeno Dos Santos, son of former President Dos Santos, was sentenced to five years in prison for fraud, embezzlement and traffic of influence.
Economic Crisis Aggravated by Oil Price Crush, Corruption and Embezzlement.
Angola, one of the major African oil exporters has faced a rising debt due to a sharp decline in crude prices and the coronavirus pandemic. It is reported that Angola owes to China entities, the main creditor, less than the $23.8 billion. The debt owed to China entities is estimated to $20 billion due to a number of Chinese entities, including China Development Bank (CDB) , the Export-Import Bank of China (EximBank) and China's largest lender, ICBC.
Angola has, hence negotiated with IMF and will receive $6.2 billion in debt relief over the next three years.
Questions Around the Selectivity Targets of the Anti-Corruption Campaign
Meanwhile, President Joao Lourenco's chief of staff, Edeltrudes Costa, was also cited in some corruption cases. The suspicion has complicated the anti-corruption campaign by the President, by introducing a conflict of interest and enrichment on the charge of Edeltrudes Costa. Edeltrudes Costa's involvement confirms the foreseen difficulties of anti-corruption campaigns in many African countries, especially given that kleptocrat dictators, their relatives and family members and their cronies are often all involved.
The affair risks to fuel the criticisms alleging that the President Joao Lourenco's anti-corruption campaign has been a selective fight against corruption, focusing only on Dos Santos family members and their closest associates, while sparing others. They cite the example of former Angola vice-president Manuel Vicente.
Manuel Vicente was accused of siphoning $230 million from Sonangol, as the former manager, in alleged illicit businesses with Isabel dos Santos, a daughter of the former President Jose Eduardo dos Santos. Manuel Vicente denied the accusations, claiming that he was a target of false grave accusations, as "an unseemly diversion." He
On September 22, 2020, Angolan state prosecutors arrested Carlos Manuel de Sao Vicente, the husband of one of the daughters of President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, over corruption claims. Carlos Manuel de Sao Vicente headed a group of companies that sold insurance contracts to state oil giant Sonangol. In early September 2020, Angola prosecutors seized buildings and hotels owned by AAA Seguros, one of De Sao Vicente’s companies, as part of the investigations into the corruption allegations.
According to court documents Carlos São Vicente became the "majority holder of shares in AAA Seguros, with 89.89 percent at the expense of Sonangol, which saw its shareholdings drastically reduced by 10 percent, in a loss estimated at more than USD 900,000,000.00, the oil company "not receiving any benefit". Carlos São Vicente, as defendant, reported that the shares participation assignment were made "on the basis of an informal agreement" between him, as a representative of AAA Seguros, and the then Chairman of the Board of Directors of Sonangol, and later vice-president President of Angola, Manuel Vicente.
In 2018, Swiss prosecutors froze $900 million held in De Sao Vicente's accounts as part of money-laundering investigations.
Isabel dos Santos is still under investigations over alleged crimes including corruption, mismanagement, embezzlement and money laundering while she was the boss of Sonangol.
Isabel dos Santos and her relatives have repeatedly denied the accusations.
Other Kleptocrats Under Watch.
Sources have told AfroAmerica Network that prosecutors around the World , especially in the United States and Europe, are eyeing properties, accounts, and other assets owned by relatives of several African dictators in the United States and Europe.
The US Government wants these dictators and their families and relatives to return the laundered money and assets, at least what is remaining of it, to where they came from or to the peoples of the countries where the assets were looted from.
For that, the US has set up a special unit, at the Justice Department, known as the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, under Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section (AFMLS). So far, the unit has pursued cases involving dictators, corrupt foreign officials and royalty. (see AfroAmerica Network: Kleptocrat Dictators and Sons: US vs. Denis Christel Sassou-Nguesso) and (Check out AfroAmerica Network articles related to Kleptocray Here)
@AfroAmerica Network, 2020