Angolan Billionaire Isabel dos Santos Fights $734 Million Asset Freeze

Isabel dos Santos, Angola’s first female billionaire and daughter of former president Jose Eduardo dos Santos, is fighting a London judge’s decision to freeze her £580 million ($734 million) assets. The freeze was enforced in December 2023 owing to alleged loan defaults and related legal challenges.

Dos Santos, who became a billionaire in 2013, claimed last week at the Court of Appeal that the wrong legal criteria was used when Angolan telecommunications company Unitel SA obtained a freezing order against her assets.

Dos Santos and her Dutch holding company, Unitel International Holdings BV, claimed that the initial freezing, which was tied to loans worth over €325 million ($410.5 million) and $44 million ($55.6 million), was politically motivated.

Dos Santos came under increased scrutiny earlier this year after the Angolan justice system indicted her on corruption charges in a 45-page document. In response, she was featured in a cover story in the Portuguese magazine Expresso, rejecting charges from the Luanda Leaks that implicated her in corruption scandals. Dos Santos questioned the materials’ legitimacy and indicated manipulation by Angolan secret agencies.

In response to the incident, dos Santos stressed transparency in her economic operations, including her assets in Malta, and refuted charges of secrecy regarding her real estate investments in Lisbon. She kept her innocence throughout.

In January, her legal representative, Dan Morrison, fiercely refuted the charges, calling them politically motivated. Morrison said, “Isabel dos Santos rejects these trumped-up charges by the Angolan government, which have been launched as part of a sustained campaign of political persecution against her by President João Lourenço.”

Morrison stated that dos Santos is currently pursuing legal action in various jurisdictions to clear her name. He went on to say, “The aim of the Angolan authorities is to intimidate her from returning to Angola so she is unable to run for political office.”

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