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Isabel dos Santos must return Galp shares to Angola: court

Isabel dos Santos, daughter of Angola’s former president and Africa’s onetime richest woman, must return to Angola her shares in Portugal’s Galp energy firm worth 422 million euros ($500 million), an international arbitration court has ruled.

The transaction under which Dos Santos acquired her stake in the oil and gas company is “null and void”. And the shares must be returned to Angola’s national Sonangol energy group, according to a copy of the ruling seen by AFP on Friday by the Netherlands Arbitration Institute, which is part of the International Court of Arbitration.

Santos’s seven-percent stake in Galp is part of a myriad of investments in Angola and former colonial ruler Portugal, worth about $3 billion according to Forbes magazine, that have been under scrutiny.

The court’s decision, which is dated July 23 and was first reported by Dutch media late Thursday, said that the purchase of the shares by dos Santos was illegal.

Dos Santos is the eldest daughter of former president Jose Eduardo dos Santos, an authoritarian who ruled the country for nearly 40 years from 1979 to 2017.

The British-educated billionaire businesswoman has faced allegations of plundering the public purse and funnelling the money abroad.

In a trove of 715,000 files released in January 2020 by the award-winning New York-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and dubbed the “Luanda Leaks,” dos Santos was accused of syphoning state funds from the oil-rich, but impoverished country into offshore assets.

She has vehemently denied the allegations and accused President Joao Lourenco, her father’s successor in Luanda, of a political witchhunt.

Nicknamed “the princess”, dos Santos was accused of amassing her vast fortune thanks to the backing of her authoritarian father.

In Portugal, in addition to Galp, she has major bank stakes and has a controlling share of a Portuguese cable TV and telecom firm.

In December 2019, Angola’s prosecutors froze the bank accounts and assets owned by her and her Congolese husband Sindika Dokolo, who died last year, a move she described as a groundless political vendetta.

Dos Santos became Africa’s richest woman after Forbes magazine named her the continent’s first female billionaire in 2013. She lost that title when her assets were frozen.

She has put her personal success down to driving ambition, saying she has always kept a clear divide between her business career and her father’s position.

“My fortune is built on my character, my intelligence, education, capacity for work, perseverance,” she tweeted following the “Luanda Leaks” release in January 2020.

She also said that the ICIJ “Luanda Leaks” report was based on “many fake documents and false information” describing it as a “coordinated political attack” led by the Angolan government.