Angola’s dos Santos family empire in the firing line

Law enforcement agencies are cracking down on the high profile family of former Angolan president Jose Eduardo dos Santos, accused of plundering revenues from the country’s vast oil wealth.

Isabel dos Santos and her Congolese husband, Sindika Dokolo, are suspected of having embezzled a billion dollars from the public firms Sonangol (oil) and Sodiam (diamonds).
Isabel dos Santos and her Congolese husband, Sindika Dokolo, are suspected of having embezzled a billion dollars from the public firms Sonangol (oil) and Sodiam (diamonds).

During dos Santos’ 38-year rule from 1979, his offspring occupied top positions in the government and in lucrative sectors ranging from banking, telecoms and media to oil.

Dos Santos’s anointed successor Joao Lourenco is now dismantling the patronage network since coming to power in 2017.

Lourenco has led a purge of the administration as well as public companies, targeting dos Santos’s relatives who have benefitted from nepotism.

– Isabel: ‘Africa’s richest woman’ –

Scornfully dubbed ‘the princess’ by Angolans, the 46-year-old is dos Santos’s eldest daughter and the public face of the family empire.

Dubbed Africa’s richest woman by US magazine Forbes with a fortune estimated at $2.2 billion, Isabel dos Santos headed national oil company Sonangol but was forced out by her father’s successor shortly after he came to power.

President Dos Santos`, his wife, billionaire daughter Isabel and his Congolese husband
President Dos Santos`, his wife, billionaire daughter Isabel and his Congolese husband

Last month, an Angolan court ordered a freeze on her bank accounts and assets.

Isabel dos Santos and her Congolese husband, Sindika Dokolo, are suspected of having embezzled a billion dollars from the public firms Sonangol (oil) and Sodiam (diamonds).

She has denied any wrongdoing, calling the accusations “lies,” “fake news” and “politically motivated.”

Isabel has amassed billions and owns stakes in Banco de Formento Angola — the country’s leading private bank, drinks distributor Sodiba and construction material producer Cimangola.

– Jose Filomeno: the indicted son –

Jose Filomeno dos Santos, 41, also known as “Zenu” has become the first member of the dos Santos clan to be prosecuted.

Jose Filomeno

Currently on trial with three others including former central bank governor Valter Filipe da Silva, he is accused of allegedly stealing $1.5 billion (1.3 billion euros) from Angola’s $5 billion sovereign wealth fund which he headed from 2013 when his father was in power.

Filomeno dos Santos was fired from the fund manager post in 2017 by President Lourenco.

He was later placed in pre-trial detention in September 2018 and was released six months later pending his trial, which opened last month in the capital Luanda.

He faces a maximum prison sentence of 12 years, if convicted. He has denied all charges of money laundering and embezzlement.

– Tchize: the media magnate –

An influential figure in the Angolan media, 42-year-old Welwitschia is dos Santos’s second daughter and half-sister of Isabel.

Popularly known as ‘Tchize’, she has controlled one of Angola’s leading multimedia and advertising agencies.

Much like most of the dos Santos family, Welwitschia dos Santos has moved abroad, claiming threats from the Angola secret service.

She was recently suspended from parliament, where she served from 2008, after lawmakers voted that her extended absence amounted to unjust enrichment.

– Ana Paula: the businesswoman wife –

The former air hostess was Angola’s first lady for 26 years from 1991. She and the ex-president have three children together.

Ana Paula
Ana Paula

The businesswoman owns a stake in a number of companies in Luanda, including a private airline. AFP