$500m fraud case roils Angola’s ‘oil-soaked kleptocracy’


One of the world’s most notorious kleptocracies is in the news again.

The son of José Eduardo dos Santos, the former Angolan president, has been named as a suspect in an alleged $500m fraud involving the oil-rich southern African country’s central bank, the Financial Times reports:

José Filomeno dos Santos, who was removed as head of Angola’s $5bn sovereign wealth fund in January by his father’s successor, João Lourenço, was formally accused on Monday, the prosecutor-general’s office said. Prosecutors have also barred Mr dos Santos from leaving the country. The investigation involves claims that the $500m was improperly transferred abroad from an account at the central bank…..Maka Angola, a site run by Rafael Marques de Morais (left), an Angolan investigative journalist, reported in January that the alleged transfer took place last year. It was part of a scheme involving a fictitious offer by international investors to lend to the Angolan government.

Mineral-rich Angola has been described as an oil-soaked kleptocracy built on inequality, and the Lourenco government is ostensibly committed to fighting corruption.

Journalist and activist Rafael Marques de Morais has spent nearly two decades uncovering sleazy dealings and official malfeasance. Now he finds himself on trial. His crime? An exposé about a shady land deal published in November 2016, the Washington Post reports:

In a recent blog post on his anti-corruption website, Maka Angola, Mr. de Morais recalled his offending language: “The loyalty and support of the President’s appointees is secured by allowing them swill at the same trough.” …Mr. de Morais has been taking risks to expose corruption for a long time. In 1999, he wrote an article in a small newspaper in which he described Mr. dos Santos as a corrupt dictator. He spent 43 days in prison and has been repeatedly threatened since. He investigated the diamond industry for a book, “Blood Diamonds: Corruption and Torture in Angola.” Last year he was one of five people awarded the Democracy Award from the National Endowment for Democracy.

The new government has begun to investigate the dos Santos kleptocracy, sending the clear message that impunity would no longer be tolerated, reports suggest.

If the new president really wants to battle fraud, he should let Mr. de Morais go free, perhaps to teach a new generation of journalists how to hold the powerful to account, the Post adds. RTWT


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