Angola freezes assets of former president's billionaire daughter

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Angola has frozen the assets of Isabel dos Santos, the billionaire daughter of the country's former leader, in a sign that the current president of the country is taking a harder line against the first first family.

President João Lourenço ended almost 40 years of control over the power of former President José Eduardo dos Santos in 2017 and has been trying to erase the influence of his predecessor and reform Angola, the third largest economy in sub-Saharan Africa. But Mr. Lourenço is under pressure while the country continues to contract under his supervision.

Ms. Dos Santos said that the freezing of assets ordered by a court was "politically motivated,quot; and that the case against her had been kept completely secret.

"The ruling contains statements that are completely false," he said in a statement. "It would have been easy to dismantle them in an open court."

She said she would use "all the instruments of Angolan and international law,quot; to fight the court order.

The measure against him comes when the son of former president, José Filomeno de Sousa, faces corruption charges, accused of helping to transfer $ 500 million from the sovereign wealth fund.

Called "the richest woman in Africa," Ms. Dos Santos accumulated an estimated fortune of more than $ 2 billion through stakes in Angolan companies, including banks and the telecommunications firm Unitel, which earned her the nickname of "the princess,quot;.

He presided over the state oil company Sonangol before being fired by Mr. Lourenço months after he came to power.

A court document dated December 23 said the government believed that Ms. Dos Santos, her husband Sindika Dokolo and Mário Leite da Silva, president of the Angola Development Bank It had caused state losses of more than $ 1 billion.

"The state through its companies Sodiam (a diamond marketing company) and Sonangol transferred huge amounts of foreign currency to companies abroad whose beneficiaries are the defendants, without receiving the agreed statement," the court said. "The defendants recognize the existence of the debt but claim that they do not have the means to pay."

Dokolo told Reuters that the Angolan government was also pressing to freeze its international assets and those of his wife. He said Mr. Lourenço's government was trying to portray him and his wife as criminals without adequate evidence.

Reuters was unable to contact Mr. da Silva, and the Angola Development Bank did not respond to calls seeking comment.

Asset freezing applies to the personal bank accounts of Ms. Dos Santos, Mr. Dokolo and Mr. da Silva in Angola and their holdings in Angolan companies, such as Unitel, Angola Development Bank and ZAP MIDIA. It is believed that Ms. Dos Santos lives in Portugal and Great Britain and that she has an important part of her wealth on the high seas.

The court said that the central bank would make sure that no funds come out of the Angolan bank accounts of the three defendants.

The directories of each of the nine Angolan companies affected by the freezing of assets must ensure that the relevant shares are not sold and that the proceeds of the shares are not transferred to the defendant.

The court said that Ms. Dos Santos had tried to transfer some of her business to Russia and that the Portuguese police had blocked a transfer of 10 million euros ($ 11 million) from one of her business partners to Russia.

Darias Jonker, director of Africa at the Eurasia Group, said the asset freeze showed that Lourenço felt he could now act aggressively against the dos Santos family without risking his control over the ruling MPLA party.

"The key prize is the neutralization of Isabel dos Santos," Jonker said.