The Messy Reality of Corruption in Angola Goes Beyond the ‘Luanda Leaks’

The Messy Reality of Corruption in Angola Goes Beyond the ‘Luanda Leaks’
Isabel dos Santos and her husband, Sindika Dokolo, arrive for a ceremony at the City Hall in Porto, Portugal, Jan. 6, 2020 (AP photo by Paulo Duarte).

A recently released trove of more than 700,000 leaked documents illuminate the shocking extent of corruption and kleptocracy in Angola. The files, known as the Luanda Leaks and published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and dozens of partner media outlets, detail how the country’s former first daughter, Isabel dos Santos, abused her power for personal gain, amassing a fortune estimated at $2.2 billion and earning her the title of “Africa’s richest woman.” Dos Santos, who splits her time mostly between London and Dubai, allegedly exploited positions of influence given to her by her father, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, before he finally stepped down as president in 2017 after nearly four decades in power.

The Luanda Leaks add new urgency to efforts by dos Santos’ successor, President Joao Lourenco, to tackle endemic corruption in the oil-rich country. After taking office in late 2017, Lourenco quickly implemented a series of economic reforms to crack down on pervasive graft, dismantle patronage networks and break up a number of artificial monopolies controlled by entrenched elites. While Lourenco’s campaign has faltered at times, it is already having an impact. Angola jumped 19 places in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index for 2019, from 165th to 149th out of 180 countries.

Angolan prosecutors are also pursuing dozens of high-profile corruption investigations, including against the dos Santos family and their associates. The former president’s oldest son, Jose Filomeno dos Santos, is currently on trial for corruption. And in late December, a court in Luanda froze Isabel dos Santos’ Angolan assets. In the wake of the recent leaks, the country’s attorney general announced that she would soon be formally charged with economic crimes including money laundering, influence peddling, mismanagement and forgery of documents.

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