Calling for the return of the stolen money to the Angolan people

Crédito: ICIJ

The revelations made by the Luanda Leaks case, regarding the dirty business of Isabel dos Santos and her associates, showed how Angola’s wealth was co-opted by an Angolan elite, assisted and encouraged by politicians, businessmen and intermediaries from financial centres around the world, with particular emphasis on Portugal.

“Angola has one of the highest child mortality rates in the world. About 40% of the population lives below the poverty line and has no access to drinking water. Access to public services, infrastructure and basic care remains insufficient. Meanwhile, money is stolen from the public coffers by Angola’s elite and parked in Portugal in the form of luxury real estate, holdings in Portuguese companies, and deposits in banks. This looting of the Angolan people has to stop and Portugal can no longer be a hostel of stolen money.
– Susana Coroado, TI-PT Chairwoman

Angola has been a sovereign state since November 11th, 1975, when the Declaration of Independence from Portugal was signed, after the decolonisation process. After more than three decades of José Eduardo dos Santos’ governance, President João Lourenço inherited a devastated country. This devastation was the result of a sharp drop in oil prices and an increase in public debt, which reached its peak in 2018 – 65.5 billion euros – but also of the profound degradation of living conditions caused by a kleptocratic regime that, year after year of normalised corruption, nepotism and massive exploitation of the country’s resources by President José Eduardo dos Santos and his restricted group of party comrades and family members, including dos Santos’ eldest daughter, Isabel, considered the richest woman in Africa , with a net worth of 2.1 billion dollars, according to Forbes magazine.

At a time when Angola is being supported by the International Monetary Fund (US$3.7 billion) and the World Bank (US$500 million), and still owes about 500 million euros to Portuguese companies, it is essential to expose not only the country’s endemic corruption, but also to prevent international aid from being diverted, while ensuring that this money does not turn into illicit financial flows from Angola to offshores or European Union countries, especially Portugal, which clearly remains available to continue laundering the stolen money of the Angolan people, thus compromising social peace and sustainable development.

An important part of the money stolen from the state and the Angolan people through corruption has been hidden in Portugal, in the form of financial assets, real estate and holdings in companies. Portugal-Angola relations are inevitably tainted by these illicit flows, damaging the long friendship between the two states as well as each country: Angola is stripped of resources vital to its economic and human development, and Portugal is no longer, in the eyes of Angolans, a reliable partner, while its companies lose opportunities.

This money belongs to the Angolan people and must be returned to Angola in order to be reinvested in the basic rights of the population, such as health, education and justice, in the economic growth of the country and in the fulfilment of its external debt obligations to public and private creditors.

“Asset recovery is a human rights issue and therefore essential for achieving the sustainable development goals defined by the United Nations, but as important as the speedy return of the money that belongs to Angola is to ensure that these amounts will not continue to feed institutionalised corruption schemes. The role of civil society, citizens and organizations, is fundamental to ensure this, whether through the diagnosis of needs, monitoring the impact of public policies, or working as agents of social transformation on the ground, by implementing projects and initiatives focused on good governance and combating corruption.
– Karina Carvalho, TI-PT Executive Director

Aware of Portugal’s responsibilities, Transparency International Portugal joins the Angolan people in their exhortation to justice, fight corruption and defend rights, calling on Angolan and Portuguese citizens to demand together that the recovery and return of the assets resulting from corruption to the people of Angola be done quickly and that the actions of the actors involved do not go unpunished.

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