Angola’s Isabel dos Santos says ‘justice denied’ after losing appeal to unfreeze assets
Dos Santos is accused of diverting billions of dollars from state companies during her father nearly 40-year rule
Angolan billionaire businesswoman and former first daughter Isabel dos Santos on Monday said she had been “denied justice” after losing an appeal against an asset freeze over alleged corruption.
Described by Forbes magazine as the wealthiest woman in Africa, she is accused of diverting billions of dollars from state companies during her father Jose Eduardo dos Santos's nearly 40-year rule of the oil-rich southern African nation.
Since her father retired in 2017, her business empire has been targeted by his successor, Joao Lourenco, who has vowed to tackle corruption.
“I have been denied justice from the courts in Angola and Portugal,” dos Santos said in a statement.
“This denial of justice comes from the Angolan courts which have rejected my appeal on the grounds that it was not filed on time.
“It is disappointing not to be allowed a day in court to prove my innocence and establish the truth,” she said.
In December a court in Luanda issued an order to freeze her business assets as part of a crackdown on graft.
That set off a flurry of developments, including the so-called “Luanda Leaks” papers alleging she funnelled Angolan state funds to offshore assets.
But Isabel dos Santos has denied the allegations and denounced Luanda's actions as a politically motivated “witch-hunt”.
In the aftermath, Angola's former colonial ruler Portugal froze her assets in that country, where she has invested mainly in the banking and telecommunications sectors.
Dos Santos added said the judge had overlooked what she claimed was false evidence, including a false passport bearing the signature of deceased former martial arts star Bruce Lee used to justify the freeze order.
Angola's prosecution spokesperson Alvaro Joao on Monday said Isabel dos Santos' accusations were unfounded.
“The fact that she is able to plead her case through recognised attorneys clearly shows that adversarial (judicial) proceedings are being properly exercised,” Joao said.
“One should not talk of denial of justice simply because the court has rejected a request that has been submitted during proceedings.”
Last week Angola's attorney-general Helder Pitta Gros said Luanda, working in tandem with Lisbon, was mulling the possibility of issuing an arrest warrant.
Dos Santos said this was “manifestly unjustified” because she had displayed a “readiness to co-operate” with authorities.