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Lisbon investigators likely to freeze proceeds from dodgy Angolan heiress’ bank sale

dodgy angolan heiressThe International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICNJ) have today revealed that the government is likely to freeze proceeds from the expected sale of billionaire Angolan heiress Isabel dos Santos’ 42.5% stake in the EuroBic bank, worth around 180 million euros. This revelation originally came from central bank governor Carlos Costa, who told a parliamentary committee on Wednesday.

“The judicial authorities will want to preserve the value associated with this deal. This may not mean, and I don’t think it will, mean blocking the transaction. It will mean safeguarding the proceeds of the transaction,” Mr. Costa said.

The small investment bank controlled by dos Santos and long-time business associate Fernando Teles came under intense scrutiny following Luanda Leaks, an investigation carried out by the ICNJ.

The investigation charted two decades of manipulation and self-dealing that helped dos Santos build her fortune, whilst taking advantage of her position as daughter of Angola’s former head of state. In 2017bthe investigation found that state oil giant Sonangol paid at least 34 million euros to a consulting firm in Dubai, owned by a friend and business associate of Ms. dos Santos.

Luanda Leaks documents show that the transfers, processed by EuroBic, occurred hours after dos Santos was fired from Sonangol by the current Angolan president. The billionaire denies any wrongdoing.

A few weeks before the investigation launched, an Angolan court seized dos Santos’ assets in Angola, along with those of her husband and a key business partner. After publication, Angolan and Portuguese authorities froze her bank accounts and announced investigations, which then lead a top figure working at the EuroBic bank to allegedly take his own life, though this has sparked controversies.

Angolan prosecutors have since accused dos Santos of “money laundering, influence peddling, harmful management” and “forgery of documents, among other economic crimes” while she held the top job at the state oil company.

On Monday, the Angolan government formally launched a civil action against dos Santos in the Luanda Provincial Court in a bid to recover nearly one billion euros it says she and her associates owe the cash-strapped African nation. Portugal has said it will cooperate in all criminal and civil proceedings initiated by the Angolan government.

Dos Santos, the eldest daughter of the former long-time president, José Eduardo dos Santos, denies all of the claims, describing them as a “witch hunt” by the current Angolan government and world media. However, the businesswoman has come under tremendous pressure to sell off her Portuguese assets. Earlier this year, dos Santos said she would sell her stake in EuroBic and a majority shareholding in the electrical engineering conglomerate, Efacec.

Last month Spanish lender, Abanca, said it had agreed in principle to acquire 95% of Eurobic, buying out dos Santos and Teles. By the end of December, EuroBic managed around 5.2 billion euros in credit as well as 6.15 billion euros in deposits, according to data reported by Reuters.

Central bank governor Carlos Costa had been summoned before Portugal’s lawmakers to answer questions on how the central bank would supervise both EuroBic’s sale and the regulator’s handling of money laundering procedures at the bank. Costa told members of the Finance and Budget committee that the intended sale would be positive for the Portuguese financial system but emphasized that it had still to go through several regulatory hoops, including a detailed Abanca audit and European Central Bank approval.

He said the Portuguese central bank had been investigating EuroBic long before the publication of Luanda Leaks. It would conclude a review into possible failures in money laundering prevention at Eurobic by the end of March, he added.

Costa said dos Santos would not be able to transfer any proceeds from the deal. Meanwhile, Catarina Martins, leader of the parliament’s Left Bloc party, has called on authorities to halt the sale, describing dos Santos’ assets as the “money of a kleptocracy.”