On August 14, 2020, Jose Filomeno Dos Santos, son of former Angolan president Jose Eduardo Dos Santos, was sentenced to five to eight years on charges of fraud and peddling influence. Dos Santos was discovered when his $500 million-dollar transfer from the Angolan national bank in 2017 was flagged by British authorities. Dos Santos concealed the transaction, masquerading it as a project to lure foreign investment to the African country. The British alerted the Angolan authorities, resulting inan investigation around money laundering, embezzlement, and other forms of criminal conduct. Dos Santos was removed from his position as governor of the sovereign wealth fund in 2018. This transaction would have been the first of three, totaling to $1.5 billion, had it gone undetected. The transaction would have most likely gone unnoticed, and Dos Santos would have gotten away with his misconduct, were it not for cooperation and communication between financial authorities of both Britain and Angola.
This incident came at the front-end of scandal around the former first family. This particular transaction occurred in 2017, only weeks before the former president, Jose Eduardo Dos Santos, stepped down. Eduardo Dos Santos held power in the country for nearly 38 years. Throughout that period, family accrued billions of dollars; meanwhile, 50 percent of Angolans live on under $2 a day. For decades, Dos Santos, and his family have been accused of corruption. The “Luanda Leaks,” a slew of documents reported on by the International Consortium of Journalists (ICIJ), seem to validate these beliefs, specifically implicating the former president’s children: his daughter, Isabel Dos Santos, and his son. The Luanda Leaks are 700,000+ emails, charts, contracts, and other documents that detail how Isabel Dos Santos amassed a two-billion-dollar fortune. Dos Santos was able to use favorable contracts and government loans to fund her industries. More than 400 banks and institutions were part of laundering schemes to accrue Dos Santos’ wealth.
Eduardo Dos Santos’ successor, Joao Lourenco, though selected by Dos Santos, launched a campaign on anti-corruption. As discontent with the party grows due to the poverty, this anti-corruption focus is useful in gaining popular support. In response to the accusations of corruption, Isabel Dos Santos claims that the investigation is motivated by a personal issue between families. This conviction in the case of her brother may discredit that defense.
A key challenge for Angola, amongst many oil-rich countries, is the “resource curse.” This moniker is given to countries that profit from resources such as oil, gold, or other assets but suffer economic inequality and a failure to circulate capital. The major reason for that is because any revenue from extracting resources is easily siphoned off to a few individuals rather than being redistributed. Much of this money is often taken out of the country and reinvested into foreign banks or initiatives. A crucial means of combatting these issues is to target corruption and crackdown on offenders. The recent actions taken against Dos Santos by Britain and Angola are an example of how to prevent this corruption.