Ex-Angolan telecoms mogul has billions in assets frozen

Isabel dos Santos. Image: Nuno Coimbra

Isabel dos Santos, the self-exiled daughter of former Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, had £580-million (R13.5-billion) of assets frozen in a London legal spat with telecommunications firm Unitel.

Dos Santos and her Dutch holding company Unitel International Holdings were sued by Angolan Unitel for defaulting on loans worth around €325-million and US$44-million to fund UIH’s interests in telecoms companies. The two firms have no direct corporate connections despite similar names.

A London judge ruled on Wednesday that Unitel had won a bid to impose the freezing order, and cited dos Santos’s properties in London, Dubai and Monaco, worth more than $100-million in total. Unitel had argued that the terms of the loans were “uncommercial” with unjustifiably low interest rates and sought by dos Santos for her own personal benefit. Dos Santos was a director of Unitel until November 2020 and the judge said it is effectively controlled by the Angolan state.

Dos Santos, who was once Africa’s richest woman, has faced allegations of corruption after being accused of causing more than $5-billion in losses to the African nation during her father’s 38-year rule. Her assets in Angola and in Portugal have been frozen and Interpol has issued an international arrest warrant for her. She has consistently denied any wrongdoing.

Lawyers for dos Santos argued the lawsuit was a political campaign against her brought by the request of the Angolan government. They said that the case needed to be viewed in light of political feuding.

Lawyers for dos Santos and Unitel didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.  — Katharine Gemmell, (c) 2023 Reuters

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