They’ve been investigated by 37 media organisations
including the Guardian and Portugal’s Expresso newspaper.
Image caption Thirty per cent of Angolans live in poverty on
less than $2 a day
Andrew Feinstein, the head of Corruption Watch, says the
documents show how Ms Dos Santos exploited her country at the expense of
“Every time she appears on the cover of some glossy
magazine somewhere in the world, every time that she hosts one of her glamorous
parties in the south of France, she is doing so by trampling on the aspirations
of the citizens of Angola.”
The ICIJ have called the documents the Luanda Leaks.
The oil connection
One of the most suspicious deals was run from London through
a UK subsidiary of the Angolan state oil company Sonangol.
Ms Dos Santos had been put in charge of the struggling
Sonangol in 2016, thanks to a presidential decree from her father Jose Eduardo
dos Santos, who kept a tight grip on his country for the 38 years he was in
But when he retired as president in September 2017 her
position was soon under threat, even though his hand-picked successor came from
the same party. Ms Dos Santos was sacked two months later.
Many Angolans have been surprised at the way that President
João Lourenço has gone after the business interests of his predecessor’s
The leaked documents show that as she left Sonangol, Ms Dos
Santos approved $58m of suspicious payments to a consultancy company in Dubai
called Matter Business Solutions.
She says she has no financial interest in Matter, but the
leaked documents reveal it was run by her business manager and owned by a
Panorama understands that Matter sent more than 50 invoices
to Sonangol in London on the day that she was fired.
Ms Dos Santos appears to have approved payments to her
friend’s company after she was sacked.
Although some consultancy work had been carried out by
Matter, there’s very little detail on the invoices to justify such large bills.
One asks for €472,196 for unspecified expenses – another
asks for $928,517 for unspecified legal services.
Two of the invoices – each for €676,339.97 – are for exactly
the same work on the same date and Ms Dos Santos signed them both off anyway.
Matter Business Solutions say it was brought in to help restructure the oil
industry in Angola, and that the invoices were for work that had already been
carried out by other consultancy companies it had hired.
“Regarding the invoices related with expenses, it is
common for consultancy companies to add expenses to invoices as a general item.
This is often due to those expenses involving large amounts of paperwork…
Matter can produce documentary evidence to confirm all expenses incurred.”
Ms Dos Santos’s lawyers said her actions with regard to the
Matter payments were entirely lawful and that she had not authorised payments
after she had been dismissed from Sonangol.
They said: “All invoices paid were in relation to
services contracted and agreed between the two parties, under a contract that
was approved with the full knowledge and approval of the Sonangol Board of
and Panorama have also uncovered new details about the business deals that made
Ms Dos Santos rich.
Much of her fortune is based on her ownership of a stake in
the Portuguese energy company Galp, which one of her companies bought from
Sonangol in 2006.
The documents show it only had to pay 15% of the price
upfront and that the remaining €63m ($70m) was turned into a low-interest loan
Under the generous terms of the loan, her debt to the
Angolan people didn’t have to be repaid for 11 years.
Her stake in Galp is now worth more than €750m.
Ms Dos Santos’s company did offer to repay the Sonangol loan
The repayment offer should have been rejected because it
didn’t include almost €9m of interest owing.
Image caption Bank orders signed by Isabel dos Santos
transferred almost $58m out of the Angolan state oil company
But Ms Dos Santos was in charge of Sonangol at the time and
she accepted the money as full payment of her own debt.
She was fired six days later and the payment was returned by
the new Sonangol management.
Ms Dos Santos says she initiated the purchase of the stake
in Galp, and that Sonangol made money from the deal as well.
“There’s absolutely no wrongdoing in any of those
transactions. This investment is the investment that in history has generated
the most benefit for the national oil company and all the contracts that were
drafted are perfectly legal contracts, there are no wrongdoings.”
Her lawyers say the repayment offer in 2017 covered what
Sonangol had indicated was owed.
It’s a similar story in the diamond industry.
Ms Dos Santos’s husband, Sindika Dokolo, signed a one-sided
agreement in 2012 with Angolan state diamond company Sodiam.
They were supposed to be 50-50 partners in a deal to buy a
stake in the Swiss luxury jeweller De Grisogono.
But it was funded by the state company. The documents show
that 18 months after the deal, Sodiam had put $79m into the partnership, while
Mr Dokolo had only invested $4m. Sodiam also awarded him a €5m success fee for
brokering the deal, so he didn’t have to use any of his own money.
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Isabel dos Santos
and her husband Sindika Dokolo can often be seen at film premieres and
festivals with the world’s stars
The diamond deal gets even worse for the Angolan people.
The documents reveal how Sodiam borrowed all the cash from a
private bank in which Ms Dos Santos is the biggest shareholder.
Sodiam has to pay 9% interest and the loan was guaranteed by
a presidential decree from her father, so Ms Dos Santos’s bank cannot lose out.
Bravo da Rosa, the new chief executive of Sodiam, told
Panorama that the Angolan people hadn’t got a single dollar back from the deal:
“In the end, when we have finished paying back this loan, Sodiam will have
lost more than $200m.”
The former president also gave Ms Dos Santos’s husband the
right to buy some of Angola’s raw diamonds.
The Angolan government says the diamonds were sold at a
knockdown price and sources have told Panorama that almost $1bn may have been
Ms Dos Santos told the BBC she couldn’t comment because she
was not a shareholder of De Grisogono.
But the leaked documents show that she is described as a
shareholder of De Grisogono by her own financial advisers.
Mr Dokolo did put in some money later. His lawyers say he
invested $115m and that the takeover of De Grisogono was his idea. They say his
company paid above the market rate for the raw diamonds.
The land connection
The leaked documents also reveal how Ms Dos Santos bought
land from the state in September 2017. Once again she only had to pay a small
Her company bought a square kilometre of prime beachfront
land in the capital Luanda with the help of presidential decrees signed by her
Image caption Angolan state oil company Sonangol has a
subsidiary in London where suspicious deals took place
The contract says the land was worth $96m, but the documents
show her company paid only 5% of that after agreeing to invest the rest in the development.
Panorama traced some of the ordinary Angolans who were
evicted to make way for the Futungo development.
been moved from the Luandan seafront to an isolated housing development 30
miles (50km) from the capital.
Teresa Vissapa lost her business to Ms Dos Santos’
development and is now struggling to bring up her seven children.
She said: “I only ask God to make her think a little
more about our situation. Maybe she doesn’t even know it, but we are
Ms Dos Santos declined to comment on the Futungo
But it was not the only land deal involving Ms Dos Santos
that displaced the local population.
About 500 families were evicted from another stretch of the
Luandan seafront after Isabel dos Santos got involved in another major
The families are now living in desperate conditions next to
an open sewer. Some of their shacks are flooded with sewage whenever the tide
Ms Dos Santos says there weren’t any evictions linked to her
project and that her companies were never paid because the development was
The billionaire has also made big profits from the telecoms
industry in Angola.
She acquired a 25% stake in the country’s biggest mobile
phone provider, Unitel. It was granted a telecoms licence by her father in 1999
and she bought her stake the following year from a high ranking government
Unitel has already paid her $1bn in dividends and her stake
is worth another $1bn. But that’s not the only way she got cash from the
She arranged for Unitel to lend €350m to a new company she
set up, called Unitel International Holdings.
Image caption The leaked documents show Isabel dos Santos
signed off on loans from Unitel as both the borrower and the lender
The company name was misleading because it wasn’t connected
to Unitel and Ms Dos Santos was the owner.
The documents show Ms Dos Santos signed off on the loans as
both lender and borrower, which is a blatant conflict of interest.
Ms Dos Santos denied that the loans were corrupt. She said:
“This loan had both directors’ approval and shareholders’ approval, and
it’s a loan that will generate, and has generated, benefit for Unitel.”
Her lawyers say the loans protected Unitel from currency
Most of the companies involved in the dodgy deals were
overseen by accountants working for the financial services company, Price
Waterhouse Coopers (PWC). It’s made millions providing auditing, consultancy
and tax advice to her companies.
But PWC has terminated its relationship with the billionaire
and her family, after Panorama questioned the way the company had assisted Ms
Dos Santos in the deals that had made her rich.
PWC says it is holding an inquiry into the “very
serious and concerning allegations”.
Image caption Tom Keatinge, director of the Centre for
Financial Crime and Security Studies, criticised PWC for giving the corruption
a “veneer of respectability”
Tom Keatinge, director of the Centre for Financial Crime and
Security Studies, told Panorama that PWC had given legitimacy to Ms Dos Santos
and her companies.
“PWC, if not facilitating the corruption, are providing
a veneer of respectability that makes what’s happening acceptable or more
acceptable than it might otherwise be.
“So if I was at PWC I’d be conducting a pretty thorough
audit of what decisions were made, and in hindsight actually: ‘Did we make the
wrong decision to accept this business and should we have reported what we had
been presented with?'”
PWC says it strives to maintain the highest professional
standards and has set expectations for consistent ethical behaviour across its
“In response to the very serious and concerning
allegations that have been raised, we immediately initiated an investigation
and are working to thoroughly evaluate the facts and conclude our inquiry.
“We will not hesitate to take appropriate actions to
ensure that we always stand for the very highest standards of behaviour,
wherever we operate in the world.”
Who is Isabel dos
Eldest daughter of
ex-President Jose Eduardo dos Santos
Married to Congolese
art collector and businessman Sindika Dokolo
Educated in UK, where
she currently lives
Reported to be
Africa’s richest woman, with a fortune of some $2bn
Has stakes in oil and
mobile phone companies and banks, mostly in Angola and Portugal