European banking regulator to probe Luanda Leaks’ allegations
22 Jul 2020

The European Banking Authority will probe revelations contained in Luanda Leaks, an investigation led by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) into how billionaire businesswoman Isabel dos Santos made her fortune.

Confirmation of the probe follows a demand by the European Parliament for the regulator to assess in particular “whether there were breaches of either national or EU law, and to assess the actions taken by financial supervisors.”

A spokesperson for the regulator said the allegations contained in Luanda Leaks fell under its remit.

“As part of our legal duty to lead, coordinate and monitor the EU financial sector’s fight against ML/TF (Money Laundering/Terrorism Financing), we are in continuous contact with NCAs (National Crime Agencies) in respect of issues of common concern,” the spokesperson told ICIJ in an email statement. “We will be providing the European Parliament with updates on our work as appropriate.”

The central role played by Eurobic, a small Portuguese lender 42.5% owned by dos Santos, in transfers of millions of euros came under particular scrutiny following the publication of Luanda Leaks in January. She has since put her stake in the bank up for sale.

She previously owned a significant stake in another Portuguese bank, BPI, which she sold in 2016 after the European Central Bank ordered the bank to lower its exposure to the struggling Angolan economy. BPI made sizable loans to entities owned or connected to dos Santos.

She has denied any wrongdoing, describing the various allegations against her as a  “selective witch-hunt.

In a wide-ranging series of resolutions adopted on July 8, following a vote to endorse an action plan to combat money laundering and terrorist financing, lawmakers also called on individual member states to initiate or continue investigations into Luanda Leaks and to prosecute anyone found in breach of financial regulations.

During the debate on the action plan, published on May 7, several lawmakers emphasized the huge sums of money involved in international tax avoidance and evasion, calling for greater urgency to combat the losses to European taxpayers.

Dutch MEP, Paul Tang, described recent estimates of trillions of dollars being lost to money laundering as “mind-boggling, staggering and a bloody shame.”

“This is money stolen, illegally gained, and it’s taken from governments and people that need it the most,” he said. “It is money that can be laundered and can be spent, thanks to our financial secrecy and thanks to opaque firms and funds, of which the owners are unknown.”

By Douglas Dalby, ICIJ, 20 July 2020

Read more at the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists

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