The rich are getting richer, even if that comes at the expense of other people. After all, 22 of the richest men have more combined wealth than all 325 million women in Africa. And as it turns out, Africa's richest woman made her fortune by exploiting her own country.
Recently leaked documents exposed Africa's richest woman Isabel dos Santos, the daughter of Angola's former president José Eduardo dos Santos, for utilizing the country's wealth to make herself richer. Using her father's position as president - which ended in 2017 - she was able to secure a number of lucrative deals involving land, oil, diamonds, and telecoms. She's been accused of moving the money made via those deals offshore.
More than 700,000 documents were obtained by the Platform to Protect Whistle-blowers in Africa and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), exposing how the billionaire businesswoman did so. ICIJ has called the documents "Luanda Leaks."
According to the BBC, one of the most suspicious deals occurred through a UK subsidiary of the Angolan state oil company Sonangol.
The leaked documents revealed that in November 2017, when dos Santos was chairwoman of Sonangol, $57 million was transferred from that company to a bank account in Dubai. The transfer of the millions began early on Nov. 16 and was made in installments throughout the day. According to The Guardian, Sonangal's bank account at the start of that day stood at $57 million. By the end of the day, it was emptied to contain just $309.
It is said the transfers had been made to a consultancy company in Dubai, the UAE called Matter Business Solutions. According to Clarified By, an organization focused on researching and curating hard facts, the Dubai company was established in 2017 as well.
According to The New York Times, the latter was owned by a friend of dos Santos; the latter has said the money included payments owed to consultants and accountants. It hasn't been confirmed whether the sum matched the bills from the consultants or not. As per The New York Times, the companies declined to provide billing details due to client confidentiality.
A brief timeline of events
- Head of Sonangol's London subsidiary was fired (Nov. 7)
- Company memo signed by dos Santos announced that Maria Rodrigues would become head of the subsidiary. It was dated Aug. 30 (Nov. 8)
- Nearly two days later, Rodrigues signed a contract, offering consultancy services on behalf of the UK subsidiary to Matter Business Solutions in Dubai. She has since claimed she had no knowledge of the details of the contract she was told to sign (Nov. 10)
- Matter's signatory was a woman named Paula Oliveira, a close friend of dos Santos
- Isabel dos Santos sacked from the Angola state oil firm (Nov. 15)
- The bank account of Sonangol was emptied (Nov. 16)
Africa's richest woman has since denied all claims
The 46-year-old businesswoman has denied all accusations against her, saying the Angolan government is attacking her.
"The ICIJ report is based on many fake documents and false information, it is a coordinated political attack in coordinations with the 'Angolan Government.' 715 thousand documents read? Who believes that?" she tweeted.
In December, an Angolan court froze dos Santos' assets, accusing her of having profited from state deals under her father's government. The businesswoman left Angola in 2018 after her father stepped down as president. On Monday, Angola's prosecutor general vowed to bring her back to Angola and will use "all possible means" to do so.