The collapsed family business empire of the Angolan dos Santos



Critics of the former Angola the president José Eduardo dos Santos, who died Friday, accused him of stripping the country of much of its vast oil wealth in order to enrich himself and his family.

Dos Santos, who stepped down in 2017 after 38 years of tough rule, appointed family members to key positions in the economy during his presidency.

Banking, telecommunications, the media, and most importantly, the oil industry were among the industries that felt the far-reaching impact of Dos Santos’ bread.

He “privatized the state to benefit his family and a handful of accomplices,” said investigative journalist Rafael Marques de Morais, who was highly critical of the alleged heist of dos Santos.

Here is an overview of the main figures in the “family business”:

– Isabelle, daughter –

Isabel, 49, derisively referred to as the “Princess”, was the public face of Dos Santos’ business empire.

Her father appointed her head of the state-owned oil giant Sonangol, but she was fired shortly after his successor, Joao Lourenço, took office.

Isabel dos Santos has described herself as an “entrepreneur” on her Twitter account, and the American magazine Forbes once named her the richest woman in Africa.

Her personal fortune is estimated at $3.5 billion.

She worked in the telecommunications sector and controlled Unitel, Angola’s leading mobile operator, from which she left in 2020.

She also held shares in the Portuguese media giant NOS, while at the same time investing heavily in the banking sector, serving on the boards of Banco de Fomento Angola, Banco BIC, as well as its Portuguese affiliate and market leader BFA.

And along with her late husband, Sindika Dokolo, she owned luxury Swiss celebrity jewelry house De Grisogono, which went bankrupt in 2020.

But that business empire has been largely shattered following a 2020 ICIJ investigation into the dubious origins of her fortune.

She is being investigated for a long list of crimes in Angola, including mismanagement, embezzlement and money laundering during her leadership of state oil giant Sonangol.

She vehemently denied allegations against her of a politically motivated “witch hunt”.

Last year, she was ordered to surrender a stake in the Portuguese energy company Galp worth about $500 million.

– Jose Filomeno, son –

In 2013, José Filomeno de Souza dos Santos, nicknamed Zeno, was appointed head of the sovereign wealth fund by his father. At 35, Philomeno controlled a $5 billion fund.

Six years later, he was arrested for fraud, money laundering and influence peddling. He was found guilty of attempting to embezzle up to $1.5 billion from the sovereign wealth fund he ran from 2013 to 2018.

In 2020, he was jailed for five years, making him one of the first members of the former president’s family to be prosecuted as part of Lourenko’s anti-bribery campaign since he came to power in 2017.

– “Chise”, another daughter –

Married to a Portuguese businessman, Velvicia dos Santos was a leading figure in the Angolan media.

Now in her 40s, she has held various positions at public broadcaster TPA and has run two tabloid-style publications.

More modest than her half-sister Isabelle, Velvichia, nicknamed “Chise”, controlled one of Angola’s leading multimedia and advertising agencies.

She also became the first Angolan woman to lead a major football club after taking charge of Benfica de Luanda.

After her brother’s conviction, she accused Lourença of unjustly persecuting the dos Santos family for political reasons.

“Lourenko (uses) the children to hurt the politically stronger father,” she told AFP.

– Ana Paula, wife –

Ana Paula, a former flight attendant who became the second wife of José Eduardo dos Santos and was involved in several diamond mining operations, according to local media.

According to Angola’s monthly economic magazine Expensao, Ana Paula Cristovao Lemos also directly owned five percent of the Sol bank, in addition to a 10 percent stake in the business she owned through her foundation.