Angola's Isabel dos Santos denies Sonangol fraud claims


Luanda (AFP)

Angolan businesswoman Isabel dos Santos, daughter of former president Jose Eduardo dos Santos, on Monday denied claims that she presided over corruption when she ran state oil giant Sonangol.

Prosecutors opened an investigation on Friday into possible graft at Sonangol and will probe "irregular financial transfers" reported by the company's new management.

"I can only share my total indignation at the serious accusations and innuendoes made against me," she said in a statement.

Sonangol's new chief executive Carlos Saturnino angrily criticised the financial management of his predecessor Isabel during a results briefing last week, alleging that $38 million had been suspiciously transferred to a company in Dubai.

But Isabel hit back Monday, insisting that it was "wrong to claim that the transfer of $38.18 million was executed after the previous management team had stood down".

"Saturnino tries deliberately to mislead public opinion to suggest there was impropriety."

In an interview with Portuguese newspaper Jornal de Negocios, Isabel went further, accusing Sonangol's new chief executive of being "a liar" and making "shocking" statements.

She went on to accuse her successor of a crusade encouraged by opposition parties with the goal of "sullying her name" as part of a "major political campaign targeting the previous government".

Isabel said however that she welcomed the opening of an investigation as it would allow her to argue her case before the courts and to counter Saturnino's "defamatory statements".

Isabel was appointed to run Sonangol in June 2016 by her father and was removed from the job in November last year by Lourenco who has reversed several of his predecessor's appointments.

Sonangol announced last December that it had opened an internal inquiry after discovering suspicious financial transfers worth tens of millions of dollars.

Isabel is reported by Forbes to be the richest woman in Africa and has been dubbed "the princess" by critics of alleged corruption under her father.

Her appointment to Sonangol was also seen as a symbol of the nepotism that characterised Dos Santos' 38-year rule.

Oil provides 70 percent of Angola's revenues and almost all of its hard currency, but many of the country's citizens live in abject poverty.