“Grand corruption is the abuse of high-level power that benefits the few at the expense of the many, and causes serious and widespread harm to individuals and society. It often goes unpunished. It concerns millions of victims around the world. It’s time the corrupt face the consequences for their crimes. Together we can make that happen!
Your vote is important. Join us to confront grand corruption and vote for the case that you think is the most symbolic. Together we can make decision-makers understand the urgency to act and stop the corrupt from getting away with it.”
-Unmask the Corrupt
ISABEL DOS SANTOS
Daughter of Angola’s President
Angolans call her “the princess”, while Forbes has named her Africa’s first female and youngest billionaire. She’s even recently been featured among BBC’s 100 most inspirational women. Meet Isabel dos Santos: the oldest daughter of José Eduardo dos Santos, Angola’s president since 1979.
With a current estimated wealth of US$3.4 billion1, Isabel, 42, has portrayed herself in international media as a hardworking independent businesswoman2 who creates opportunities for development3 in Africa, and who achieved her fortune through merit4. But there’s a murkier side to this story …
Angola became Africa’s largest oil producer5 in 2015 and is among the continent’s top five diamond producers. Despite two-digit economic growth during a decade, over two-thirds of Angola’s population lives on less than US$2 a day6, and one in every six children dies before age five – the world’s highest child mortality rate7.
In a country perceived to be among the 14 most corrupt countries in the world8, people have questioned whether merit was indeed the route Isabel took to become the richest woman in Africa. Angolan journalist Rafael Marques de Morais9 has long investigated the presidency of José Eduardo dos Santos and has called it the “epicentre of corruption”10, building fortunes by transferring public assets to private pockets.
Isabel started her empire in 1999, when she ended up owning important stakes apparently without a public tender in the national diamond and mobile telecommunications business11. Isabel insists the process which granted her a 25% stake in Angola’s only private mobile telecommunications company Unitel was fair12. Indeed her father changed the law to allow joint ventures with the state to be granted licenses by the president without public tendering13. She has since expanded and diversified into banking, oil and the cement industry in Angola. Since 2009 she has increasingly become involved in Portugal’s telecommunications, banking, energy, construction and media sectors14, and acquired stakes in telecommunications in several Portuguese-speaking African countries. According to reports, Isabel and her husband have also been identified as purchasing through anonymous shell companies the majority of shares in the extravagant Swiss jeweller De Grisogono15.
Isabel’s use of anonymous shell companies is a red flag under international money-laundering legislation. In October 2015, four members of the European Parliament urged the European Commission, the Financial Action Task Force and the European Central Bank to investigate the origin of funds she used to buy a Portuguese engineering company16, reported to become an equipment supplier for three Angolan dams, through a shell company that had reportedly been co-funded by an Angolan state owned company, with the president’s blessing17.
Angola’s people have paid a high price for the misappropriation of state assets and revenues by the presidency over decades. The majority of the urban poor live in informal settlements without legal guarantee of tenure and lack sanitation, running water and electricity18. President dos Santos, meanwhile, uses repression to crush dissent – censorship, criminal defamation lawsuits, intimidation, harassment, surveillance, violence, arbitrary arrests, and unfair trials. In 2015, Amnesty International declared 15 Angolan activists as prisoners of conscience19. These days billionaire Isabel dos Santos’ diversified empire is thriving, but the commodity price slump has left oil-dependent Angola with empty coffers. Where did all the money go?”
Find out more: www.unmaskthecorrupt.org