Sun, Jan 19, 2020 - Page 4 News List

Angolan former president denies ties to graft

AFP, LUANDA

Isabel dos Santos, daughter of former Angolan president Jose Eduardo dos Santos, talks during an interview in London on Jan. 9.

Photo: Reuters

Former Angolan president Jose Eduardo dos Santos has denied links to alleged public company embezzlement during his rule, in his first response to corruption investigators last month freezing his daughter’s assets.

Isabel dos Santos, the ex-president’s billionaire first-born, has been the target of an anti-corruption campaign led by her father’s successor, Angolan President Joao Lourenco.

She is accused of using state-owned companies to divert more than US$1 billion for her personal enrichment, allegations that she denies and calls part of a political vendetta.

The investigation is looking at alleged irregularities involving diamond marketing firm Sodiam and Sonangol — Angola’s national oil company, which was handed over to Isabel dos Santos by her father in 2016.

In a letter to the Angolan National Assembly and its Constitutional Court, Jose Eduardo dos Santos distanced himself from investigations into illicit enrichment during his rule.

It was the first time that he has responded to allegations surrounding his daughter, who has repeatedly claimed her innocence.

“The [former] president of the Republic... had no direct participation in diamond sales,” the ex-president stated in the letter, dated Jan. 13 and seen by reporters on Friday.

He also denied “participation in the sale of crude oil” produced by Sonangol, saying that revenue was monitored by the Angolan Minister of Finance and only incorporated into the state budget after parliament’s approval.

“The [former] president of the Republic... has never transferred [money] to himself or to any other state,” he added. “[Those] who said he did it lied.”

Lourenco forced Isabel dos Santos out of the state oil firm within months of coming to power in 2017. He has since launched a purge of his predecessor’s administration.

Jose Eduardo dos Santos ruled the oil-rich southern African country with an iron fist for 38 years.

During this time, top positions were awarded to the ex-president’s cronies and wealth accumulated in the hands of a select few.

Last month, prosecutors froze the bank accounts and holdings owned by Isabel dos Santos and her Congolese husband Sindika Dokolo.

The ex-president’s children have said that they have been unfairly targeted.

His son, Jose Filomeno, is being tried for allegedly embezzling US$500 million from the Angolan Sovereign Wealth Fund, which he oversaw from 2013 to 2018.

Nicknamed “Zenu,” he is the first member of the Dos Santos family to be prosecuted and faces a maximum of 12 years in jail if found guilty.

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