The Supreme Court of Angola has issued an order to seize around US$1 billion in assets held by Isabel dos Santos as a “preventive” measure.
In late November 2022, Interpol issued a red notice for dos Santos at the request of the Angolan government – effectively a request to law enforcement worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest her.
Portuguese news agency Lusa now reports that according to a Supreme Court document dated 19th December 2022, authorities have evidence to support allegations of embezzlement and money laundering, prompting the order to seize dos Santos’ assets in “all banking institutions.”
This order also covers all shares held by dos Santos in several companies, including Angolan firm Embalvidro and mobile operators Unitel T+ and Unitel STP, the Unitel subsidiaries active in Cape Verde and Sao Tome e Principe. Dos Santos owns both units via Unitel International Holdings (UIH), registered in the Netherlands. Lusa reported that around 70% of dos Santos’ shares in Mozambique’s MStar and Upstar Comunicacoes would also be seized.
According to TeleGeography, dos Santos acquired Unitel T+ via UIH in 2012 using a US$35 million loan from Unitel Angola. At this time, she held a 25% stake in the Angolan operator via Vidatel, a unit registered in the British Virgin Islands.
In 2019, the Angolan Supreme Court accused her of diverting state funds to firms in which she was a shareholder, such as state oil company Sonangol, and ordered that her assets be seized – including her stake in Unitel Angola. A year later, her voting and dividend rights for Unitel were removed, and the company was eventually returned to state control in October 2022 following an order from current President Joao Lourenco.
Dos Santos has been dogged by corruption allegations for years, although she has repeatedly denied them, claiming in a CNN interview in November 2022 that Angolan courts were being “used to fulfil a political agenda”.
Isabel dos Santos is the daughter of former Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who died in July 2022. He left office in 2017 after ruling Angola for almost 40 years.