Isabel dos Santos: Angolan billionaire rejects fresh criminal charges

Isabel dos Santos has in the past been described as Africa’s richest woman.

Fresh criminal charges against Angolan billionaire Isabel dos Santos are politically motivated, a lawyer for the businesswoman has said.

Angola’s public prosecutor has charged Ms Dos Santos with 12 crimes, including embezzlement and fraud, reports said.

The charges relate to Ms Dos Santos’ time as chair of a state-owned oil firm.

Described as Africa’s richest woman, Ms Dos Santos ran Sonangol from 2016 to 2017.

She is also the daughter of former Angolan president José Eduardo dos Santos, who led the south-west African country for 38 years until he stepped down in 2017.

Critics of Ms Dos Santos have long claimed she used her position of influence in Angola to enrich herself at the expense of the state – allegations she has strongly refuted.

In response to last week’s indictment, Dan Morrison, a lawyer for Ms Dos Santos, told the BBC: “Isabel dos Santos rejects these trumped-up charges by the Angolan government which have been launched as part of a sustained campaign of political persecution against her by President [João] Lourenço.”

Under the presidency of Mr Lourenço, several of José Eduardo Dos Santos’ relatives have been prosecuted on various charges, which they deny.

In 2020, Angolan prosecutors charged Ms Dos Santos with embezzlement and money laundering.

Global police agency Interpol issued a “red notice” for the billionaire in 2022, asking global law enforcement authorities to locate and provisionally arrest her.

Ms Dos Santos has not been arrested since investigations against her began but she is subject to a number of asset freezes around the world.

“Isabel is presently engaged in court proceedings in various jurisdictions to clear her name,” her lawyer Mr Morrison continued in his statement.

“The aim of the Angolan authorities is to intimidate her from returning to Angola so she is unable to run for political office.”

The most recent indictment against Ms Dos Santos was filed on 11 December, Portuguese news agency Lusa reports, but the Angolan attorney general’s office told the BBC it could not comment on the matter as it was “under judicial secrecy”.

Ms Dos Santos has mooted running for Angola’s presidency in various media interviews over the past few years.

She has previously been described as Africa’s richest woman, with an estimated fortune of $2bn. She is no longer included on Forbes’ rankings of the world’s wealthiest people because her assets are under dispute in various territories.

Additional reporting by Israel Campos

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