Leaked documents has revealed how Africa’s richest woman made her fortune through corruption by exploiting her own country.
The documents show how Isabel dos Santos and her husband were allowed to buy valuable state assets in a series of suspicious deals, got access to lucrative deals involving land, oil, diamonds and telecoms when her father was president of Angola, one of many southern African country rich in natural resources
The former president’s daughter Ms Dos Santos has made the UK her home and owns expensive properties in central London. says the allegations against her are false and but politically motivated witch-hunt by the Angolan government which has placed her under criminal investigation by the authorities in Angola for corruption and her assets in the country have been frozen.
Now BBC Panorama has been given access to more than 700,000 leaked documents about the billionaire’s business empire.
Most were obtained by the Platform to Protect Whistle-blowers in Africa and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
They’ve been investigated by 37 media organisations including The Guardian and Portugal’s Expresso newspaper.
Andrew Feinstein, the head of Corruption Watch, says the documents show how Ms Dos Santos exploited her country at the expense of ordinary Angolans.
“Every time she appears on the cover of some glossy magazine somewhere in the world, every time that she hosts one of her glamorous parties in the south of France, she is doing so by trampling on the aspirations of the citizens of Angola.”
The ICIJ have called the documents The Luanda Leaks.
One of the most suspicious deals was run from London through a UK subsidiary of the Angolan state oil company Sonangol.
Ms Dos Santos had been put in charge of the struggling Sonangol in 2016, thanks to a presidential decree from her father Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who kept a tight grip on his country for the 38 years he was in power.
But when he retired as president in September 2017 her position was soon under threat, even though his hand-picked successor came from the same party. Ms Dos Santos was sacked two months later.
Many Angolans have been surprised at the way that President Joao Lourenço has gone after the business interests of his predecessor’s family.
Angola in numbers has 29 million population
Fought 27-yearcivil war, fought from independence to 2002
$4,170average income, but this masks big disparities
30%of population live in poverty – less than $1.90/day
Angola is the 2nd biggest oil producer in Africa. Also major diamond producer
The leaked documents show that as she left Sonangol, Ms Dos Santos approved $58m of suspicious payments to a consultancy company in Dubai called Matter Business Solutions.
She says she has no financial interest in Matter, but the leaked documents reveal it was run by her business manager and owned by a friend.
Panorama understands that Matter sent more than 50 invoices to Sonangol in London on the day that she was fired.
Lawyers for Matter Business Solutions say it was brought in to help restructure the oil industry in Angola, and that the invoices were for work that had already been carried out by other consultancy companies it had hired.
“Regarding the invoices related with expenses, it is common for consultancy companies to add expenses to invoices as a general item. This is often due to those expenses involving large amounts of paperwork… Matter can produce documentary evidence to confirm all expenses incurred.”
Ms Dos Santos’s lawyers said her actions with regard to the Matter payments were entirely lawful and that she had not authorised payments after she had been dismissed from Sonangol.
They said: “All invoices paid were in relation to services contracted and agreed between the two parties, under a contract that was approved with the full knowledge and approval of the Sonangol Board of Directors.”
The ICIJ and Panorama have also uncovered new details about the business deals that made Ms Dos Santos rich.
Much of her fortune is based on her ownership of a stake in the Portuguese energy company Galp, which one of her companies bought from Sonangol in 2006.
The Diamond Connection: The former president also gave Ms Dos Santos’s husband the right to buy some of Angola’s raw diamonds. Ms Dos Santos’s husband, Sindika Dokolo, signed a one-sided agreement in 2012 with Angolan state diamond company Sodiam. They were supposed to be 50-50 partners in a deal to buy a stake in the Swiss luxury jeweler De Grisogono.
But it was funded by the state company. The documents show that 18 months after the deal, Sodiam had put $79m into the partnership, while Mr Dokolo had only invested $4m. Sodiam also awarded him a €5m success fee for brokering the deal, so he didn’t have to use any of his own money.
The diamond deal gets even worse for the Angolan people. The documents reveal how Sodiam borrowed all the cash from a private bank in which Ms Dos Santos is the biggest shareholder.
Who is Isabel dos Santos?
Eldest daughter of ex-President Jose Eduardo dos Santos
Married to Congolese art collector and businessman Sindika Dokolo
Educated in UK, where she currently lives
Reported to be Africa’s richest woman, with a fortune of some $2bn
Has stakes in oil and mobile phone companies and banks, mostly in Angola and Portugal
Source: Forbes magazine and others