Saturday, October 31, 2020

Angola: Ex-president’s son Jose Filomeno dos Santos sentenced to 5 years for fraud

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Angola’s Supreme Court on Friday handed a five-year jail sentence to Jose Filomeno dos Santos, the son of the oil-rich country’s former president, for fraud when he headed the national sovereign wealth fund.

Dos Santos, 42, was summoned before court in December over allegations he tried to embezzle up to $1.5 billion (1.3 billion euros) from the sovereign wealth fund, which he oversaw from 2013 to 2018.

Nicknamed “Zenu”, dos Santos was charged with stealing $500 million from the fund and transferring it to a Swiss bank account.

“For the crime of fraud… and for the crime of peddling influence… the legal cumulus condemns him to a single sentence of five years in prison,” judge Joao da Cruz Pitra said.

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Three co-defendants, including the former governor of the national bank of Angola (BNA) Valter Filipe da Silva, were sentenced to between four and six years in prison for fraud, embezzlement and influence peddling.

All four were acquitted of money-laundering charges. They had previously denied any wrongdoing.

Zenu is the first member of the former presidential family to be prosecuted as part an anti-graft campaign led by President Joao Lourenco, who came to power in 2017.

In February, Angolan investigators froze the assets of Zenu’s billionaire half-sister Isabel dos Santos.

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She is being probed for a long list of crimes in Angola, including mismanagement, embezzlement and money laundering during her stewardship of the state-run oil giant Sonangol.

Lourenco has mainly targeted the family members of his predecessor Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who appointed relatives and friends to key positions during his 38-year rule — leaving a legacy of poverty and nepotism.

Isabel has vehemently denied the accusations against her and denounced Luanda’s actions as a politically-motivated “witch-hunt”.

Only a small elite have benefitted from Angola’s vast oil and mineral reserves.

The southwest African country has been slow to recover from a 1975-2002 civil war. Large pockets of the population live in poverty with limited access to basic services.

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