Angolan businesswoman Isabel dos Santos announced that she would sue a consortium of journalists that disclosed the files known as ‘Luanda Leaks’, maintaining that the investments she made in Portugal are lawful.
“I refute the unfounded allegations and false statements and inform [you] that they steps have been initiated for legal actions against the ICIJ [ International Consortium of Investigative Journalism] and partners of ICIJ that will be conducted by the international law firm Schillings Partners”, dos Santos said in a statement sent to Lusa.
The businesswoman, who is under suspicion in Angola of mismanagement and the embezzlement of funds from state oil company Sonangol, alleges in the statement that she has been “the target of a campaign … orchestrated by various media outlets.
” Images and documents were used selectively, misinterpreted and supposedly based on emails obtained criminally by hacking, to build a misleading narrative about my companies, investments and work in general,” the statement reads.
Dos Santos laments what she calls the “irresponsible actions of some journalists who […] have unleashed a human tragedy and neglected respect for the right to privacy.”
The businesswoman, who after the files were released announced the intention to sell her stakes in several Portuguese companies, insists that none of these investments was made with “funds of illicit origin “. They were, she states “constituted from lawful funds, with procedures of the National Bank of Angola (BNA) respected with regard to the licensing of capital exports.
“The companies with which I operate are legitimate, pay taxes, and none has ever been convicted of criminal activity,” she adds.
Among the investments, the statement highlights her business relationship with Portugal Telecom Ventures – now a unit of Brazilian telecom giant Oi – noting that their partnership in Angola generated more than 1 billion euros in dividends.
Dos Santos also argued that Angola’s law requiring the repatriation of capital “does not apply to lawful funds … duly licensed by the authorities” but was rather aimed at “funds of criminal provenance”.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalism (ICIJ) on 19 January released more than 715,000 files under the name ‘Luanda Leaks’, detailing financial arrangements set up by Isabel dos Santos and her husband, Sindika Dokolo, that are alleged to have enabled money to be withdrawn from the Angolan public treasury via tax havens.
According to the investigation, of which Portuguese newspaper Expresso and television channel SIC form a part, dos Santos is believed to have set up a scheme that allowed her to divert more than $100 million (€90 million) to a Dubai-based company, Matter Business Solutions.
On this specific accusation, dos Santos says in the statement to Lusa that this company was responsible for coordinating the various leading international consultancy firms that worked on the restructuring of Sonangol, including BCG, PWC, McKinsey and VdA.
“These international consultants worked with Matter Business Solutions as an across-the-board coordinator of the Sonangol Group restructuring project and received payments of about 90 million dollars, made by Matter Business Solutions,” she states.
For that reason, she continues, “the reports that Matter is a ghost company that unjustifiably received more than 100 million dollars is particularly misleading and manipulative.”
The businesswoman also states that the work consulting and aiding the restructuring of Sonangol took place over 18 months in more than 20 group companies, and “contributed to generate positive results”.