Angola’s authorities have ignored a Brazilian firm’s admission that it paid $50m in bribes to secure contracts in the country, despite demands from watchdogs that it join international investigations into the corruption, Reuters reports. Yet a leading anti-corruption campaigner is facing the threat of a defamation suit following reports that linked the ruling president’s family with corrupt practices.
When investigating and exposing acts of corruption and human rights abuses, being interrogated by Angola’s Criminal Investigation Service and Attorney General’s Office is a routine part of the fight for justice, notes Rafa Marques de Morais (above).
However, it was “with some astonishment” that he this week received a threatened defamation suit from London law firm Schillings about his recent investigation into Caioporto S.A. and Rui Verde’s article “Zenú: Corrupção Mata,” he writes:
“As you are aware, we are acting on behalf of Jean-Claude Bastos, who is an indirect shareholder of Caioporto, SA and we have drawn up this letter in accordance with the Protocol of Prior Defamation,” says the notification… Then, it is stated, without substantiation, that the statements of the article are false and misleading. Lie: The Maka Angola information is based on public and official documents and their chronological interpretation, as well as on credible and protected sources.
The proposal for Cabinda’s deep water port at Caio was first announced in a 2012 presidential decree as a wholly private-sector initiative. Yet the contract was awarded, without feasibility study or competition, to Caioporto, S.A., a brand-new company created just a few months earlier, Morais noted:
Its name alone suggests that this brand-new venture was likely set up specifically for the Caio Port project. Curiously, Caioporto not only had no prior experience in the construction of port facilities or deep-water harbours, but when it began its registration process in October 2011 it listed a risibly small operating capital of barely US $20,000.
Significantly, however, the company’s owner (with 99.9% of the shares) was listed as Mr Bastos de Morais, known in Angolan circles as a special friend of the President’s son and his main business associate.
Brazilian engineering conglomerate Odebrecht admitted to the illegal payments in Angola as one part of a guilty plea in December in New York court, in which it confessed to paying $788m in bribes, mostly across Latin America, Reuters reports.
But in Angola, “there has been absolute silence,” said anti-corruption campaigner Morais. …[He] demanded an investigation in Angola in January after the US court published the plea deal detailing the company’s admissions, but said he was not surprised to receive no response from the authorities.
“The point is that there is no official interest in fighting corruption. Or even pretending that there is an interest in fighting corruption,” Morais added. “The Angolan judicial system wants this to go away because of the involvement of senior officials.”
The net is closing around Angola’s Vice-President, Manuel Vicente, the former CEO of the country’s oil giant Sonangol and a man long accused of being a conduit for the diversion of oil revenues into international business deals linked to the Angolan President, his family and close associates, reports suggest:
He faces charges in connection with the alleged suborning of a Portuguese prosecutor. Orlando Figueira, in 2013 to set aside an investigation into money-laundering involving the purchase of a US $4 million luxury apartment in Lisbon. Both the prosecutor and Vicente’s lawyer, Paulo Blanco, have also been indicted on charges of violating court confidentiality regarding the investigation into the Angolan subsidiary (BESA) of the Banco de Espirito Santo (BES), which collapsed in 2014.
Concerns over the mal-administration of Sonangol continue to multiply, Maka Angola adds, as the country’s prime source of foreign income hemorrhages millions of dollars on foreign (mainly Portuguese) ‘consultants’ close to the President’s daughter – Isabel dos Santos (right), who calls herself ‘Africa’s first female billionaire’ – while defaulting on essential payments.
US regulators are probing an Angolan oil deal in which BP and a Texan partner agreed to pay $350m to fund a Sonangol-linked research center that has yet to materialize, The Financial Times reported:
The anti-corruption campaign group Global Witness and others have queried the research centre project, pointing to the fact that scant progress appears to have been made five years after the payments started to flow. Anti-corruption activists have raised questions about the cost of the research centre.
The recent indictments are partly the result of an investigation into a complaint arising from the publication by Maka Angola of a report entitled “The Angolan Presidency: The Epicentre of Corruption“. As its author, Rafael Marques de Morais testified to the Portuguese judicial authorities, Figueira was promptly – and illegally – sharing his testimony with the Angolan authorities.