Angolan court orders seizure of Isabel dos Santos' $1 billion assets

Tuesday December 27 2022
Isabel santos

Angolan businesswoman Isabel dos Santos. The International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol) has issued an international arrest warrant against Isabel dos Santos. PHOTO | MIGUEL RIOPA | AFP


The Angola Supreme Court (ASC) has ordered the preventive seizure of several assets of  former president's daughter Isabel dos Santos, valued at $1 billion, as requested by the Public Ministry,  media reported Tuesday.

According to the state-owned Jornal de Angola, the order comes after indications of embezzlement and other crimes.

“There are indications of embezzlement, influence peddling, economic participation in business and money laundering, foreseen and punishable", it says adding that Isabel should only be notified after the seizure of assets.

Read: ULIMWENGU: Cry, the beloved Angola: A case of nationhood deficit in Africa

The publication quoted the order signed by Justice Daniel Geraldes, dated December 19 which states that "all the balances of the current accounts with title or co-title, headquartered in all the banks, including term deposit accounts, other financial applications that are associated to those, including dossiers of securities in the name of the defendant Isabel dos Santos, are seized”.

Some of these accounts are in countries such as Mozambique, Cape Verde and Sao Tome and Principe, it added.


ASC also ordered the freezing of 70 per cent of the shares of Mozambique telecommunications company Mstar, in which Isabel dos Santos "is the effective beneficiary," and authorised the seizure of 70 per cent of the defendant's shares in Upstar Comunicação.

The Court also ordered the seizure of 100 per cent of the shares of the companies UnitelL T+ in Cape Verde and Unitel STP in Sao Tome and Principe, in which the Angolan businesswoman is also the beneficial owner.

Embalvidro, Unitel International Honding and Unitel International are other companies named in the court order.

Who is Isabel dos Santos?

Isabel dos Santos, 49, who was once celebrated as the richest woman in Angola and in Africa, is currently seeing the Luanda government turning its back on her.

Isabel, who is also a Russian national, was for a long while celebrated in her country, especially during her late father's 38-year regime.

She was born in Baku, Azerbaijan, during the Cold War era to a Russian mother Tatiana Kukanova, who met with her father José Eduardo dos Santos while attending university.

President dos Santos ruled Angola from 1979 to 2017.

During his time in office, senior dos Santos ruled the country like his personal firm. His close allies including family members were largely accused of embezzling state institutions.

President Eduardo dos Santos marriage with Kukanova didn’t last.

In 1979, Kukanova moved to London with her daughter Isabel where she spent her teenage years attending an elite prep school and wentto King’s College London, where she got an engineering degree and met her husband-to-be Sindika Dokolo.

Mr Dokolo was a wealthy Congolese businessman.

British nationality

Thanks to her long 18-year stay in the UK, Isabel , who speaks fluently English, French, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish, also holds British nationality. 

In 1997, she launched a popular restaurant known as Miami Beach as she came back to Angola and started making money. After that in 2001, she invested in Angolan and Portuguese companies and started her own telecommunications firms (Unitel and Zap).

In December 2002, at the age of 29, Isabel got married to Mr Dokolo, who was 30. Together, the couple became business partners.

By her early 30s, Isabel owned luxury apartments in some European cities such as London and Lisbon worth millions.

In fact, Forbes declared Isabel  the richest woman in Africa and its first billionaire, worth an estimated $3.5 billion in 2013.

In 2016, Isabel was appointed by her father as the head of Sonangol, the Angolan state-owned petroleum firm. The following year, her father’s predecessor sacked her from the post after becoming president.

But last year Forbes magazine described how the once continent’s richest woman went broke.

By its calculations, Forbes said she was no longer a billionaire, dropping her from the magazine’s newly released 2021 list of Africa’s richest people.

She was no longer considered a billionaire due to the fact that her father was no longer in office, her empire is marred with corruption charges, her assets were frozen by courts in three different nations and a lawsuit claimed hundreds of millions of dollars in unpaid debt in a fourth country.

Meanwhile, it seems that the Angolan heiress is paying for her father's sins, whom she considered her great source of inspiration.

Read Also: Angolan Dos Santos' crumbling family business empire

In 2020, the New York-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists after work with international newspapers published a trove of files allegedly showing how Dos Santos siphoned hundreds of millions of dollars of public money into offshore accounts in a series called "Luanda Leaks".

2020 will be a year of many unhappy memories for Isabel.

Diving accident

Mr Dokolo died on October 29 in Dubai, aged 48. According to his family members, he died in a diving accident off the coast of Dubai. In January, Angolan authorities charged the couple with money laundering and embezzlement.

She repeatedly denied all the allegations.

In August, she was not able to attend her father’s burial ceremony in Luanda because she risked being arrested by the Angola government in order to answer to the charges against her.

Arrest warrant

Last month, Angola’s Attorney-General confirmed that the International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol) has issued an international arrest warrant against Isabel dos Santos.

Reacting, Isabel dos Santos described the announcement as political persecution.

“I think that today there is a greater understanding of what is really happening and there is no doubt that we are facing a scenario of political persecution”, she said in an interview with CNN Portugal in November.

 “Looking at Angola and our legal system, it is easy to understand that the Attorney General receives orders directly from the President. That is, unlike in some countries, where a prosecutor is independent, or depends on another body”, she added.