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Isabel dos Santos plans legal action against media over ‘Luanda Leaks’

Angolan billionaire Isabel dos Santos plans to take legal action against media who published a vast enquiry dubbed “Luanda Leaks” about the origin of her fortune, according to a statement issued Tuesday by her Portuguese PR firm.

About 30 members of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), including the BBC, the New York Times and French daily Le Monde, published on January 19 an enquiry concluding that the daughter of Angola’s ex-president Eduardo dos Santos allegedly accumulated in a fraudulent manner an estimated fortune of $2.1 billion (1.9 billion euros).

Isabel dos Santos denied the “unfounded allegations and false claims” and said she has taken steps “to act legally against the ICIJ and the ICIJ’s partners,” in the statement in Portuguese dated Monday.

The legal action will be carried out by the UK-based law firm of Schillings Partners, added the 46-year-old who lives in both London and Dubai.

“In the last few weeks I have been the target of an intensive and concerted campaign, organised by several media,” said Dos Santos, named the richest woman in Africa by Forbes magazine.

The New York-based ICIJ — which had also worked on previous financial scandals including the 2016 “Panama Papers” — said it had trawled more than 715,000 files and produced stories it said revealed a “broken international regulatory system”.

Angola’s prosecutors announced charges against dos Santos, as the Luanda Leaks scandal swirled around allegations that she had syphoned off hundreds of millions of dollars of public money into offshore accounts during her tenure as head of Sonangol, Angola’s state-owned oil giant.

A Portuguese hacker, Rui Pinto, has claimed to be responsible for the Angolan corruption leaks. Described by his lawyers as a “very important European whistleblower”, he was also behind the so-called Football Leaks, a series of stories about financial dealings and transfers involving clubs in Europe’s top leagues.

The scandal has been a major test for current Angolan President Joao Lourenco in the fight against corruption. Angola has frozen Dos Santos’ assets in the country and called for her extradition.