People enter the EuroBic bank headquarters in Lisbon, Portugal, January 23 2020. Picture: PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA / AFP
People enter the EuroBic bank headquarters in Lisbon, Portugal, January 23 2020. Picture: PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA / AFP

Lisbon — A banker with ties to Isabel dos Santos was found dead on the same day that Angola’s prosecutor named both him and Africa’s richest woman as suspects in an investigation over alleged mismanagement at state oil company Sonangol.

Nuno Ribeiro da Cunha, 45, appeared to have hanged himself in the garage of his apartment building in Lisbon, Portuguese police said in a statement Thursday. He had attempted to commit suicide earlier in January, the police said.

As the director of private banking at EuroBic, Ribeiro da Cunha was responsible for several multimillion-dollar transfers from a Sonangol account to a company in Dubai, according to documents released by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists ( ICIJ) earlier this week.

Lisbon-based EuroBic said in an earlier statement Thursday that Dos Santos has decided to sell her 42.5% stake in the lender.

Angola’s prosecutor-general, Helder Pitta Gros, late on Wednesday named four people as suspects in the inquiry that covers the period between Dos Santos’s 2016 appointment to Sonangol by her father, then-president Jose Eduardo dos Santos, and when she was fired by her father’s successor, Joao Lourenco, in 2017.

The prosecutor’s announcement marks a further step in the unravelling of Isabel dos Santos’s business empire and a dramatic reversal of fortune for the 46-year-old, who has always portrayed herself as a self-made woman who amassed her wealth of an estimated $2bn through hard work.

The ICIJ released a series of documents, known as the “Luanda Leaks”, showing how she built her businesses via mostly questionable deals involving state assets during her father’s 38-year tenure. Earlier in January, a court in Angola froze her assets and bank accounts.

Dos Santos, who has been living outside Angola since 2018, said in a statement that the allegations made against her over the past few days were “extremely misleading and untrue” and part of a “well-coordinated political attack.”

Her brother, Jose Filomeno, the former head of Angola’s $5bn sovereign wealth fund, has been on trial since December for his involvement in a $500m transfer from the central bank to an account in the UK during the final days of his father’s rule.

Authorities would like the suspects to come in voluntarily, but international arrest warrants may be considered if they continue to refuse co-operation, Pitta Gros said on state TV. They may also try to block Dos Santos from selling assets and shares held in Portugal, the former colonial ruler, and elsewhere if they were bought with money that was transferred illicitly from Angola, he said.

“If we get evidence that the investments were made with money taken illicitly out of the country we will do everything so that she doesn’t dispose of those assets,” said Pitta Gros, who arrived in Portugal on Thursday to ask for help with the investigation.

The other two named by the prosecutor are Mario Leite da Silva, who on Thursday stepped down as chair of Banco de Fomento Angola, and Paula Olveira, the owner of Dubai-based consulting firm Matter Business Solutions. Isabel dos Santos holds a 25% stake in Angola telecommunications company Unitel, which has a majority stake in BFA.

Portugal’s securities market regulator CMVM said it is seeking information from auditors and companies with ties to Dos Santos, including oil firm Galp Energia and telecommunications company NOS.

The BBC reported on Wednesday that a senior  PwC executive had left the firm after the revelations. PWC declined to comment on the departure and says it has launched its own investigation.


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