Angola: Isabel dos Santos’ companies say asset seizure ‘abusive’

The companies of Angolan businesswoman Isabel dos Santos who, together with Sonaecom control telecom operator NOS in Portugal, on Sunday, said that the seizure of their shares in the company, announced on Saturday, is ‘abusive’ and ‘excessive’.

Assuring that the media and Sonae had learned of the seizure of their shareholdings in ZOPT – held by Angola’s Kento and UIH and Sonae and the controlling shareholder of NOS – Isabel dos Santos’ group said that it cannot comply with the decision.

Sonaecom said on Saturday that the court has decided to proceed with the preventive seizure of 26.075% of the share capital of NOS, following the publication of news about allegedly fraudulent schemes involving Isabel dos Santos. 

In Sunday’s reaction, Kento and UIH assumed willingness to cooperate with the Portuguese judicial authorities but stressed that the decision was based on a request from the Angolan justice that was ‘clearly abusive’.

The request aims to protect an alleged right of credit of the Angolan State, not yet proven and claimed from the shareholder of the companies UIH and Kento, but in Angola, there is already arrested property for the same purpose since December 2019, the group said.

“In addition to seizing what is not due, the Angolan authorities still request that the Portuguese courts apply judicial measures against UIH and Kento, companies that have nothing to do with the alleged claims, the businesswoman said, recalling that the decision will prevent the payment of wages to workers in Portugal, Cabo Verde and Sao Tome and Principe and licenses and taxes to all tax authorities.

The group said that in addition, the judicial decision prevents the shareholder’s right to vote, without noting that this goes against the legal norm expressed in an attachment as a pledge.

Isabel dos Santos is surprised that in Angola the judicial authorities have not applied any restrictions on the normal operation of companies.

Considering that the Angolan justice’s request is ‘incongruous’ and misuses the Portuguese justice to achieve non-legal and disproportionate ends, the businesswoman asked for consideration.

In Sunday’s press release, Isabel dos Santos advised the Portuguese authorities to consider these facts under penalty of condemning companies and workers, and families, to bankruptcy and ordeal, in an unacceptable manner and based on a disproportionate and dual position of the Angolan justice system.

The decision of the preventive seizure of 26.075% of the share capital of NOS was communicated on Saturday by Sonaecom to the Portuguese Securities Market Commission (CMVM).

The Portuguese company assumed full cooperation with the authorities but contested how the decision was carried out, as it considered that it did not fulfil the objective intended by the court itself and penalised Sonaecom and NOS.

According to the court’s decision, Isabel dos Santos cannot receive dividends which will be deposited in the Caixa Geral de Depósitos at the order of the present proceedings.

The International Investigative Journalism Consortium revealed on 19 January more than 715,000 files, under the name of ‘Luanda Leaks’, which detail alleged financial schemes of Isabel dos Santos and her husband, which have allowed them to withdraw money from the Angolan public treasury through tax havens.