Saturday, October 31, 2020

EuroBic banker implicated in Isabel dos Santos money laundering case found dead

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A banker implicated in the embezzlement and money-laundering case against Africa’s richest woman, Isabel dos Santos, has been found dead in Lisbon.

Nuno Ribeiro da Cunha, 45, managed the account of oil firm Sonangol, formerly chaired by Ms Dos Santos, at the small Portuguese lender EuroBic.

His death, on Wednesday, was reported on Thursday soon after Angolan prosecutors named both as suspects.

Ms Dos Santos denies alleged corruption revealed by leaked documents.

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Mr Da Cunha was found dead at one of his properties in Lisbon. A police source told Portuguese media that “everything points to suicide”.

Local media quoted police as saying Mr Da Cunha had already attempted to kill himself this month and had been suffering from depression.

On Wednesday EuroBic said it would end its business relationship with Ms Dos Santos, who is reportedly the bank’s main shareholder through two companies she owns.

It was later reported as saying that Ms Dos Santos was selling her capital stake in the bank.

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The bank added that it would investigate transfers worth tens of millions of dollars she had made. Some of the transfers drained Sonangol’s account at EuroBic, the New York Times reports.

In a statement on Thursday, Ms Dos Santos described the allegations against her as “extremely misleading and untrue”.

What is Dos Santos accused of?

Prosecutors are seeking to recover $1bn (£760m) that Ms Dos Santos and her associates are alleged to owe the state.

“Isabel dos Santos is accused of mismanagement and embezzlement of funds during her tenure at Sonangol,” Mr Pitta Gros told a news conference on Wednesday evening.

He said that as a result, she was being provisionally charged with “money laundering, influence peddling, harmful management… [and] forgery of documents, among other economic crimes”.

The Angolan authorities will now conduct a criminal investigation to determine whether she should be formally charged.

They have also named five other people as suspects in the case, one of whom was Mr Ribeiro da Cunha, and urged them to return to Angola.

Mr Pitta Gros said that if Ms Dos Santos did not return to Angola voluntarily, an international arrest warrant would be issued for her.

Ms Dos Santos was controversially appointed head of Sonangol in June 2016 by her father, the then president of Angola. She was sacked from the post in 2017 by her father’s successor, President Joao Lourenço.

An investigation into Ms Dos Santos was opened after her successor at Sonangol, Carlos Saturnino, alerted authorities to alleged irregular money transfers. Her assets in Angola have been frozen.

What is in the leaked documents?

On Sunday, the BBC and other news organisations reported on more than 700,000 leaked documents about the billionaire’s business empire.

The documents showed how Ms Dos Santos got access to lucrative land, oil, diamond and telecoms deals when her father was president. Her fortune is estimated at $2.1 bn (£1.6bn).

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They also showed how Western firms helped Ms Dos Santos take her money out of Angola.

She called the allegations entirely false and claimed that the Angolan government was engaged in a politically motivated witch-hunt.

Earlier this week a top executive at financial services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers left the firm over its links with Ms Dos Santos. The company declined to comment on the departure and said it had launched its own investigation.

How has Dos Santos responded?

In her statement on Thursday, Ms Dos Santos denied the allegations, describing them as a “very concentrated, orchestrated and well-co-ordinated political attack, ahead of elections in Angola next year”.

“It is an attempt to neutralise me and to discredit the legacy of President dos Santos and his family. No-one should be taken in by these diversionary tactics,” she said.

Ms Dos Santos said “stolen documents” were leaked “selectively” to “give a false impression of my business activities”.

“I am a private businesswoman who has spent 20 years building successful companies from the ground up, creating over 20,000 jobs and generating huge tax revenue for Angola… I have always operated within the law and all my commercial transactions have been approved by lawyers, banks, auditors and regulators,” she said.

She added that she had asked lawyers to take action against “inaccurate and defamatory reports” and was ready to fight the case in international courts “to defend my good name”.

Source: bbc.co.uk

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