Isabel dos Santos. Picture: REUTERS
Isabel dos Santos. Picture: REUTERS

Lisbon — Isabel dos Santos, Africa’s richest woman and the daughter of former Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos, said she did nothing wrong when she was chair of state-owned oil company Sonangol and called a probe into the transfer of millions of dollars from the Luanda-based firm Political Vengeance.

Angolan newspaper Novo Jornal reported on October 18 that Angola’s prosecuting authority started a criminal investigation into the transfer of $38m from Sonangol authorised by Dos Santos. Her successor at Sonangol, Carlos Saturnino, accused Dos Santos of authorising the transfer to a company in Dubai last year days after she was dismissed as chair. Saturnino was sacked in May.

“To say there was a transfer order after my dismissal is simply false,” Dos Santos said in statement e-mailed on Monday. “The fight against corruption can’t be used to feed an agenda of persecution or a witch hunt.”

Dos Santos said the fund-transfer was legal and was made while she was still in her position at Sonangol on November 15 2017, the day she was dismissed and before a new board was appointed the next day. She said payment instructions were given one or two days before her dismissal.

If Angolan authorities are serious about fighting corruption they should investigate why Sonangol had about $20bn in debt at the end of 2015, before her appointment, and how this money was “used and lost”, said Dos Santos.

Dos Santos was dismissed as head of Sonangol amid a crackdown on corruption by João Lourenço, who replaced her father as president in 2017. Sonangol, long the main engine of Angola’s oil-focused economy, has been at the centre of Lourenço’s anti-graft campaign.