Profiles in Kleptocracy – Isabel dos Santos

Profiles in Kleptocracy – Isabel dos Santos

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April 04, 2017

Growing up, her nickname was “Princess.” She attended one of the world’s top universities and started a business empire with the help of her father, the president. Recently, her father appointed her to a key government position, seemingly in violation of laws concerning nepotism and conflicts of interest. The president’s lawyers argue that such laws do not apply to him as he is the executive, not a member of the executive branch.

A lawsuit brought to remove Isabel dos Santos as the Chief Executive Officer of Sonangol, Angola’s state-owned oil company, was struck down in December 2016. While the case is being appealed, Ms. dos Santos remains in charge of a company that brought in US $284.3 million in net income in 2015. Her brother, Jose Filomeno dos Santos, chairs Angola’s US $5 billion sovereign wealth fund.

Ms. dos Santos not only heads Sonangol; she also has a fortune valued at US $3 billion. A Forbes investigation found that her investments in Angolan industries—including diamonds, telecom and cement—stem from her father’s position as the president. A company owned by Ms. dos Santos and her mother purchased a 24.5% stake in a venture with the state-owned company that mines diamonds. Ms. dos Santos purchased a 25% stake in Unitel, a private mobile telecom provider that received a telecom license after entering into a joint venture with Sonangol. And by effectively nationalizing the country’s sole cement factory (with a loan funded by a bank partially owned by Ms. dos Santos), a company owned by Ms. dos Santos ended up with an 11% stake and control over the factory.

President dos Santos will not run in Angola’s presidential election this year. It is unclear if this will impact Ms. dos Santos’s appointment at Sonangol, which has more than four years remaining


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