Angolan former president denies looting state coffers

Wednesday November 21 2018

Angolan President and chairman of the ruling

Angolan President and chairman of the ruling MPLA Jose Eduardo dos Santos holds hands with the party's presidential candidate Joao Lourenco at a closing campaign rally in Luanda on August 19, 2017. Tensions between the two have erupted into the open as President Lourenco's anti-corruption drive targets the former ruler's family. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By ARNALDO VIEIRA
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Angolan former President José Eduardo dos Santos Wednesday denied leaving the state coffers empty at the end of his reign last year.

Addressing the press at his Fesa foundation headquarters in Luanda, Mr dos Santos said he felt compelled to shed some light on his 38-year reign.

Without allowing any questions, the former president read a statement which stated that he left behind $15 billion to the executive.

“I did not leave the state coffers empty. In September 2017 at the presidency's change, I left $15 billion in the National Reserve Bank (BNA),” he said.

Full disclosures

On Saturday, in an interview with the Portuguese Expresso newspaper, President João Lourenço said he found the country’s coffers empty when he took over.

President Lourenço also criticised his predecessor for what he considers absence of true handover of power.

The head of state said he expected a handover of power that entailed full disclosures.

The interview with the Expresso came as President Lourenço, 64, prepared to visit Portugal from Thursday to Saturday.

Angolan President Joao Lourenco

Angolan President Joao Lourenco. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

In September, Portugal's Prime Minister Antonio Costa visited Angola in an effort to get over with the bitter legacy of a colonial rule that ended in 1975 when Portugal withdrew without handing over power and Angola descended into civil war until 2002.

Angola remains Portugal's key trading partner, and the third largest recipient of its investments.

A major source of friction was resolved last May when a Lisbon court decided that Angola's former vice-president Manuel Vicente could be tried in Luanda, rather than in Portugal, for corruption charges.

The visit by Mr Costa, which had been postponed several times, was a "very important step" toward normalising relations, AFP quoted analyst Alex Vines of Britain's Chatham House think-tank as saying.

The two signed a slew of agreements that included deals on Angola's debts to Portuguese businesses -- estimated to be in excess of $470 million.

Interview requests

President Lourenço took over in August last year and pledged to fight corruption and rebuild the economy of the second-largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa, which was still recovering from the plunge in oil prices in 2014.

Mr dos Santos rarely made public appearances during his 38-year reign, and he was known to refuse all interview requests from international media.

President Lourenço, 64, also said he had no reason not to disclose his assets, adding that he did not make wealth from unjustifiable activities.

“I am not a millionaire or a billionaire,” he said.

“If I was nominated by President José Eduardo dos Santos and the ruling MPLA, it is because they recognised in me qualities,” President Lourenço added.

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