18 Mar 2020
Portugal’s so-called ‘super judge’ Carlos Alexandre has ordered the seizure of all Angolan billionaire businesswoman Isabel dos Santos’ assets in the country, including lucrative stakes in various companies and luxury properties.
Alexandre, a high-profile judge specializing in white-collar crime, made the order in Lisbon’s Central Court for Criminal Investigation, saying that a lower court ruling in January freezing dos Santos’ bank accounts did not go far enough in safeguarding Angola’s interests.
The previous order followed an appeal from Angolan attorney general Hélder Pitta Grós for Portuguese cooperation to help the African country recover more than $1 billion it claims dos Santos and her associates siphoned from state coffers.
The eldest daughter of Angola’s former long-time ruler, José Eduardo dos Santos, owns numerous properties and has extensive business interests in Portugal; including investments in banks, media, telecoms, energy and engineering companies.
Alexandre’s March 13 ruling appears to stall the intended sales of dos Santos’s 42.5% stake in the investment bank Eurobic, estimated to be worth $200 million, and the majority shareholding in Portuguese engineering giant Efacec, which she acquired in 2015 for $220 million.
Eurobic, controlled by dos Santos and long-time business associate Fernando Teles, came under intense scrutiny after Luanda Leaks, an investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. The investigation charted two decades of self-dealing that helped dos Santos amass a fortune.
Earlier this month, Portugal’s central bank governor Carlos Costa said any proceeds from the mooted Eurobic sale to Spanish lender Abanca would likely be confiscated. Alexandre’s ruling appears to ensure this.
By Douglas Dalby, ICIJ, 17 March 2020
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