On Thursday, Angola National State Radio (RNA) reported that Isabel dos Santos, the daughter of Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santo and richest woman in Africa has been appointed as the head of state oil firm, Sonangol. This appointment aims to boost the company which is struggling with the aftereffects of the fall in oil prices. Isabel’s appointment comes after the president fired the entire board and appointed new ones.
In April, Angola announced that it was going to restructure Sonangol in order to increase efficiency and profitability.However there are several reports accusing Isabel of using funds from Sonangol to build her company, Galp, which is the largest petroleum company in Portugal, but Isabel has denied these claims.
“I’m not financed by any state money or any public funds…I don’t do that,” Isabel told Wall Street Journal in February.
Isabel and the “lies” of her assets
According to an Angolan news platform, Maka Angola, which carried out a detailed investigation, her Galp shares were gotten through a business deal which was paid with the State money and public funds through Sonangol. Galp is Portugal’s largest company in the oil and gas sector with share capital worth 9.5 billion euros.
“Isabel’s Galp interests are held indirectly, through the offshore Esperaza Holding BV which owns 45 percent of Amorim Energia, the largest shareholder in Galp with 38.4 percent of its stock. Amorim Energia’s majority owner (with 55 percent) is Portugal’s richest man, Américo Amorim, who was Isabel’s partner in creating the BIC bank in 2005. The two are also partners in the company Nova Cimangola, acquired from Cimpor by the Angolan State for US $75 million. It is through Esperaza Holding that Sonangol’s funds were channelled to Isabel dos Santos,” Maka Angola reported.
In 2005, when Esperaza Holding bought into Galp, it was registered by the Dutch Chamber of Commerce (Handelsregisterhistorie) as being a company wholly-owned by Sonangol and this was, again, the case the following year.
However, documents obtained by Maka Angola show that on January 25, 2006, Sonangol signed a contract with an offshore company named Exem Africa Limited, registered in the British Virgin Islands, to create Esperaza Holding as a vehicle for investment.
“The contract specifies that Sonangol is the sole source of funds that will be invested in Galp in the name of both parties.”
“In short, Angola’s state oil giant was using a front company in which Isabel dos Santos is the ultimate beneficial owner to channel public money into overseas investments, and without Exem having to put up a single cent, by a stroke of the pen the company found itself the owner of 40 percent of Sonangol’s investment in Galp.”
According to information available to the public, Esperaza Holding (the vehicle for controlling Galp shares) was 45 percent owned by the President’s daughter and 55 percent owned by Sonangol. However, Maka Angola found out that she received 40 percent of the stakes and not 45 percent as she informed the public. The deal was signed by Manuel Vicente, then Chairman of the Board and CEO of Sonangol (now Angola’s Vice-President) and on Isabel’s behalf by her legal counsel, Fidel Kiluanje Assis Araújo.
Having had all these allegations levied against her there are speculations that Isabel may want to use her position to get rid of the documents that could be traced to her. This appointment could also increase her wealth and power in Angola and Africa. Isabela dos Santos is considered the richest woman in Africa with a net worth of about 3.5 billion as of 2015.