Since João Lourenço took power in September 2017 there have been a wave of dismissals in some of Angola’s most powerful, and lucrative positions. Many of former president dos Santos’ so-called inner circle have been dismissed including Isabel dos Santos from her position as head of state oil fund, and Jose Filomeno dos Santos as director of the nation’s Sovereign Wealth Fund, as well as the commander general of the national police and the head of Angola’s intelligence and security service.
In the most recent blow to former President Jose Eduardo dos Santos’ formerly extensive sphere of influence his son, Jose Filimeno Dos Santos has been charged with fraud. The charges relate to a $500 million transaction out of a Standard Chartered Bank account belonging to the Angolan central bank, Banco Nacional de Angola. The transaction was picked up by Britain’s National Crime Agency who flagged the half a billion dollar transfer as suspicious as part of an investigation into potential fraud against Banco Nacional de Angola (BNA).
The recipient bank account was frozen by HSBC, and the funds have now been returned to Angola, according to state news agency ANGOP. Standard Chartered have not commented on how the transaction was missed by their own security procedures, however, several news outlets allege the transfer was disguised as an investment project with the assistance of a guarantee from Credit Suisse which turned out to be fake. All sources stress that Credit Suisse were not involved in the transaction. The former finance minister Valter Filipe da Saliva has also been charged for the fraudulent transfer.
This is the second blow for the eldest son of the former President, after President Lourenço removed him from his position as head of Angola’s Sovereign Wealth Fund in early January, along with the dismissal of the fund’s entire board. Jose Filomeno dos Santos was replaced with a former finance minister, Carlos Alberto Lopes. Angola’s Sovereign Wealth Fund has long been controversial, but came under particular scrutiny after the leaked Paradise Papers detailed that tens of millions of dollars had been paid to a close business associate of José Filomeno, whose asset management company was given near complete control of the fund’s investments.
It has been suggested that the fact both the son and daughter of the former Head of State of are now facing investigations into their alleged misuse of power has signalled a wider shift in attitudes towards corruption in the nation. President Lourenço’s hard line stance on corruption at all levels has been said to send a message to ordinary Angolan’s that wealth and power are no longer license for legal immunity. One news outlet even reported a decrease in local level briberies, although this is appears largely unquantified. Nonetheless Paulo Carvalho, a sociologist at Agostinho Neto University in Luanda, has stated the shift represents ‘the rebirth of hope for ordinary people who have been neglected for many years’. Indeed many are hopeful that President Lourenço’s crackdown on allegedly corrupt officials represents a new era for Angola. Critics of the new President suggest he may be simply removing those loyal to his predecessor before installing his own political allies.
If you would like to read more on Angola, ACTSA produces a quarterly publication, the Angola Monitor featuring the latest politics, economics, aid and development and human rights news from the country.