World News

Angola’s dos Santos named suspect over alleged fraud, selling Eurobic stake

By Catarina Demony and Sergio Goncalves

LISBON (Reuters) – Angola’s billionaire former first daughter, Isabel dos Santos, has decided to sell her stake in Portuguese bank Eurobic, the small lender said on Wednesday.

It made the announcement soon after Portuguese news agency Lusa reported that Angolan prosecutors had named dos Santos as a formal suspect over alleged mismanagement and misappropriation of funds while she was chairwoman of state oil firm Sonangol.

Lusa quoted Angola’s attorney general, Helder Pitta Gros, as telling a news conference in the Angolan capital Luanda that dos Santos had not directly shown any interest in collaborating with Angolan authorities.

Dos Santos, who was chairwoman of Sonangol from June 2016 to November 2017 and amassed her fortune during her father Jose Eduardo dos Santos’ decades-long presidency, could not immediately be reached for comment but has denied wrongdoing.

Portuguese newspaper Expresso said others linked to dos Santos were also named as formal suspects including Mario Leite da Silva, chairman of Banco de Fomento Angola. Silva could not immediately be reached for comment.

In Portugal, dos Santos holds significant stakes in several major firms including NOS and oil firm Galp Energia.

A spokeswoman for Portugal’s public prosecutors office confirmed to Reuters that Angola’s Pitta Gros and Portugal’s attorney general Lucilia Gago will meet in Lisbon on Thursday. She did not say what they will discuss.

Isabel dos Santos is Eurobic’s main shareholder but the bank said she had decided to withdraw from the bank’s shareholding structure and sell her stake.

In a statement sent to Reuters, Eurobic said the selling process of the 42.5% stake had already started and dos Santos’ decision was “final”.

It said her exit would take place “as soon as possible”, and that Bank of Portugal, the central bank, had been informed of the decision.

Hundreds of thousands of files about dos Santos that were obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) were released by several news organizations on Sunday.

The media reports focused on alleged financial schemes used by dos Santos to build her business empire, including transfers between Angola and Dubai.

On Monday, Bank of Portugal said in a statement it had asked Eurobic about transfers between Angola and Dubai and Portugal’s prosecutor’s office said it would investigate the media reports.

Dos Santos said on Sunday that allegations made against her were “completely unfounded”.

Angolan authorities froze dos Santos’ assets in the African country in late December following allegations by prosecutors that she and her husband Sindika Dokolo had steered payments of more than $1 billion from state companies Sonangol and Sodiam to firms in which they held stakes. Dos Santos and Dokolo denied wrongdoing.

(Reporting by Catarina Demony and Sergio Goncalves, Editing by Andrei Khalip and Timothy Heritage)