Angolan prosecutors on Tuesday sought a seven-year jail sentence for the son of former president Jose Eduardo dos Santos for allegedly embezzling $500 million from state coffers.
Jose Filomeno dos Santos, 42, was summoned before Angola's Supreme Court in December over allegations he tried to steal as much as $1.5 billion (1.3 euros) from the sovereign wealth fund, which he oversaw from 2013 to 2018.
Nicknamed "Zenu", he was charged with pilfering $500 million (445 million euros) from the fund -- alongside the former governor of the national bank of Angola (BNA), Valter Filipe da Silva, and two others.
The funds were alleged transferred to the funds to a Swiss bank during the dos Santos presidency.
All four have denied the accusations.
Deputy attorney-general Pascoal Joaquim asked judges to sentence Zenu and one collaborator to seven years in prison and hand the other two a 10-year sentence.
"Since the beginning, the defendants have always had the intention to bypass the Angolan state," Joaquim told the court in the capital Luanda.
Zenu is the first member of the former presidential family to be prosecuted as part an anti-corruption campaign lead by President Joao Lourenco, who came to power in 2017.
His predecessor led Angola for 38 years, leaving a legacy of poverty and nepotism in a country still recovering from a 1975-2002 civil war.
Zenu was appointed head of the $5 billion fund in 2013, 34 years into his father's reign.
His half-sister Isabel dos Santos was ousted from her position as chair of the state oil giant Sonangol in November 2017.
Cited by Forbes magazine as the richest woman in Africa, she is accused of diverting billions of dollars from state companies during the dos Santos presidency -- allegations she has vehemently denied.
In December a court in Luanda issued a "preventative" order to freeze her business assets as part of the investigation.
Earlier on Tuesday, Lourenco reiterated his intention to combat graft.
"Over the past two years we have done a lot and the evidence is there," the president told members of his ruling People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) party.
"The authors are paying for the crimes they committed, which is different to what has been done... since independence."
Angola plans to kick off niobium exploitation at Bonga mountain, located at central Huila province's municipality of Quilengues, in the second half of this year, official said on Tuesday.
After two years of prospecting, the rare superconducting material, used in the space industry, niobium will be exploited for the first time in the country, said Adriano Pedro, Quilengues' administrator.
For the exploitation, Pedro said a mining company is investing 100 million U.S. dollars for the project, adding that the prospecting process of the mineral made it possible to collect samples and ensure the quality of the ore.
Given the project has already been authorized by Presidential Decree and the prospecting process is over, the exploitation is able to start in the second half of the year, the official said.
Angola is halfway through the construction of a $77 million diamond hub that it hopes will create revenue sources beyond the sale of rough diamonds.
The hub is located in Angola’s diamond province of Lunda Sul. It will contain a main diamond-cutting facility, a diamond evaluation and training center, and smaller manufacturing plants, Sodiam, Angola’s state-owned diamond company, said last week. Sodiam also plans to set up a bourse in the hub, it announced earlier this month.
“The hub aims to bring together companies related to the mining sector, focusing not only on the diamond value chain, but also in providing adequate and necessary infrastructures for the promotion and development of related activities,” the company noted.
Sodiam will divide the hub into three main parts. A commercial area, which will be open to the public, will include banks, insurance companies, tax offices, stores, restaurants, a food court, a convention center and a training center. Meanwhile, an industrial zone will contain 26 lots of varying sizes, which will house factories and logistics platforms for the diamond industry. The third section will comprise the main cutting factory.
Sodiam expects the hub to be completed by the end of the year.
Angola has cut the number of oil cargoes that it will ship to Chinese state firms to pay down debt to Beijing as it seeks to renegotiate repayment terms to deal with the crippling impact of the coronavirus, three sources familiar with the matter said.
Angola said this week it had asked for G20 debt relief and was in advanced talks with some countries importing its oil on adjusting financing facilities, but expects no further debt overhaul to be needed beyond this.
The sharp global economic slowdown due to the novel coronavirus pandemic pushed Brent oil prices to their lowest levels since the late 1990s and U.S. oil futures to negative territory for the first time in history.
The price drop has put heavily-indebted Angola into a fragile state as it derives a third of state revenues from oil.
By far, its biggest creditor is China. Analysts say Angola has over $20 billion in bilateral debt with the lion's share owed to China. Much of the cash was borrowed to build roads, hospitals, houses and railways across the southern African country.
On top of its Chinese debt, Luanda secured a $3.7 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund last year and state oil firm Sonangol has borrowed $2.5 billion from banks between end-2018 and mid-2019, the IMF said.
A global oil output cut deal led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has added to Luanda's woes.
As an OPEC member, Angola was pressured to cut oil exports starting from May. The result has left the country with fewer and lower-value cargoes to split between paying off its Chinese debt and filling its depleted coffers.
The sources said that China's state-owned Sinochem would receive five cargoes in July, down from the usual seven or eight, while the trading arm of Chinese giant Sinopec called Unipec would receive none.
Unipec typically receives two to three cargoes earmarked as debt repayment.
Sonangol, Angola's finance ministry, Sinopec and Sinochem did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
China's foreign ministry said on Wednesday that the relevant departments were in contact with Angola over its request for debt relief.
"These oil-backed loans create stronger interdependence (between lender and borrower) than traditional financing. This tactic of diverting cargoes is not new as seen elsewhere," David Mihalyi, a senior economic analyst with the Natural Resource Governance Institute, said.
Chad threatened to cut repayment cargoes to commodities trader and miner Glencore during a major loan restructuring in 2017. Similarly, Congo Republic has cut many repayment oil cargoes to Glencore and commodities trader Trafigura as discussions drag.
Angola is not the only African country heavily indebted to China. The IMF and ratings agency Moody's have raised concerns about debt levels in sub-Saharan Africa particularly with China.
Kenya has overtaken Angola as the third-largest economy in Sub-Sahara Africa, International Monetary Funds’ (IMF) fresh estimates released Friday has shown.
The East Africa’s largest economy, that has been the fourth largest economy in the Sub-Sahara Africa, has surpassed Angola to become third-largest economy in dollar terms.
Kenya now is behind Nigeria (1) and South Africa.
Bloomberg reports that Angola has contracted every year since 2016 as oil output declined, and the kwanza was devalued in 2019 while Kenya’s shilling held steady.
The coronavirus pandemic and restrictions to limit its spread will probably see Angola’s gross domestic product contract 1.4 percent in 2020, while Kenya’s is projected to grow by one percent, according to the IMF report.
According to IMF, Angola, an oil dependent country, recently had its national assembly approve a package of revenue and expenditure measures to fight the COVID-19 outbreak in the country and minimize its negative economic impact.
Additional health care spending, estimated at $40 million (Sh4billion) was announced. Tax exemptions on humanitarian aid and donations and some delays on filing taxes for selected imports were granted.
While Kenya has earmarked Sh40 billion (0.4 percent of GDP) in funds for additional health expenditure and funds for expediting payments of existing obligations to maintain cash flow for businesses during the crisis, among other tax relief incentives.
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An Angolan soldier shot and killed a teenager during an operation to enforce face-mask wearing to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the government has said.
The home affairs ministry said a 17-year-old boy “was a victim of a gunshot” fired by a soldier on Friday while “allegedly” protesting against a military-led awareness campaign on the use of face masks.
In a statement late on Friday, the ministry described the case as “homicide” and that it was investigating the incident.
On May 9, a 21-year-old man was “accidentally” shot when police clashed with a group of people caught flouting a curfew and a ban on social gatherings in Luanda’s impoverished Huambo neighbourhood.
President Joao Lourenco declared a state of emergency in March, banning public gatherings and restricting movement to limit the spread of COVID-19.
In April, the government made wearing face masks compulsory.
Rights groups across the continent have denounced widespread incidents of violence by security officials enforcing anti-coronavirus restrictions.
To date, Angola has recorded just 48 cases of coronavirus, including two deaths.
Angolan billionaire Isabel dos Santos called on Tuesday for a corruption case against her to be dropped, accusing Angolan authorities of using forged documents including a bogus passport to get courts to seize her assets.
Angolan authorities seized the accounts of dos Santos and her husband Sindika Dokolo late last year over allegations that they steered $1 billion in state funds to companies in which they held stakes during the presidency of her father Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who ruled for 38 years until 2017.
In February, Portuguese prosecutors followed suit, freezing Isabel dos Santos’ assets in the country, which was Angola’s colonial master until independence in 1975. She and Dokolo have denied any wrongdoing.
Dos Santos, 47, whose whereabouts are not known, said her lawyers had discovered a fabricated passport in her name last month when granted access to the Luandan court’s files on the asset freeze for the first time.
The passport was in English, the passport number was cited differently in two locations on the document and the signature belonged to long-dead kung fu star Bruce Lee, who died in 1973.
“The Angolan Public Prosecutor’s Office presented material evidence that was fabricated and based on a forgery. This court decision should be struck out as abuse of process and the judgement set aside,” dos Santos said in an English-language statement.
“The forgery of the passport is obvious at first glance,” it said.
Neither Angolan nor Portuguese prosecutors responded to requests for comment.
The Luandan Provincial Court in Angola could not be reached for confirmation or comment on what impact there would be on the asset freeze if the document dos Santos cited was proven to be fabricated and part of the file against her.
Angola has named dos Santos as a suspect over alleged mismanagement and misappropriation of funds while she was chairwoman of state oil firm Sonangol in 2016-2017.
Angola’s chief prosecutor said in January that an international arrest warrant for dos Santos could be issued if she fails to appear to cooperate with the investigation.
Almost all of the companies that operate in the real estate sector in Angola are in a situation of technical bankruptcy, as a result of the market being at a standstill for over five years, said the president of the Association of Real Estate Professionals of Angola (APIMA).
Pedro Caldeira told Jornal de Angola that the lack of co-financing is the sector’s main problem, as a result of a stoppage in the real estate market and this has made it difficult for promoters to work because this is a segment that requires significant social contact.
Saying that the crisis has had a significant effect on the areas of sales and leases, he added that there are a number of problems, and mentioned a lack of funding for investment, reducing bureaucracy of the legal system for the real estate business, unattractive interest rates for consumer credit, inactivity of the National Housing Institute in relation to issuing licenses for the sector and the lack of a license to carry out the profession, among the most visible.
In an interview with the newspaper, Caldeira, noted he was unhappy with the current real estate market situation and accused banks of no longer financing the sector because they believe it is an area of increased risk.
He said that home loans are non-existent in the country at the moment, but that they could allow entrepreneurs to build low-rent housing.
He recalled that APIMA is a self-funded non-profit association and that it is not possible to conduct real estate business without funding. He added that the government can count on APIMA’s associates to outline strategies to leverage the private real estate sector and achieve the segment’s objectives.
Angolan state oil company Sonangol last Thursday in Luanda launched an international public tender for the sale of its stakes in nine companies, according to information published on its website.
Sonangol intends to sell 30% of its stake in Petromar, as well as 51% in companies Sonatide Marine Limited and Sonatide Marine Angola Limitada and 40% in Sonamet Industrial and Sonarcergy – Serviços e Construções Petrolíferas, Lda.
The sale of the stakes is part of the privatisation programme and also covers the sale of 10% of the share capital of shipyard company Porto Estaleiros Navais (Paenal), 33.33% of SBM Shipyard, 30% of Sonadiets Limitada and 30% of Sonadiets Services.
Sonangol requires that the parties provide qualification documents under the terms of the tender, as well as a provisional bond of between US$7,000 and US$15,000 or the equivalent in kwanzas, at the exchange rate of the National Bank of Angola.
The deadline to submit applications, in the case of Petromar, is 30 May of this year, with the presentation of the proposals scheduled for 23 July.
Applications for Sonatide Marine, Limited and Sonatide Marine Angola are scheduled for 15 May, and the submission of proposals for 15 June.
As part of the privatisation programme Sonangol has a total of 54 stakes to be sold in Angola and abroad.
In January Sonangol launched the public tender for the sale of stakes that it holds in six companies.
These are Atlântida Viagens Turismo, in Luanda, WTA Internacional, Atlântida Viagens Turismo, in Lisbon, WTA Travel Agency (Luanda), WTAn(Paris), WTA/Houston Express and ITSS- Internacional Travel Services and Systems.
All these companies are focused on travel and tourism and have headquarters in Angola, Portugal, the United States of America and France.
Angola’s National Bank (BNA) by September 2020 plans to announce the name of the company that will be responsible for the Mobile Transfers and Instant Messaging system to be introduced throughout the country, according to a request for information published on 26 April.
“As there is already a well-consolidated mobile telecommunications network in the Angolan market, the BNA intends to introduce a system of Mobile Transfers and Instant Messaging (STMI), which will be available in the entire country and accessible to the whole population, commonly known as Mobile Money,” said the central bank.
The opening of the requests for information is intended for drawing up a request for proposal (RFP) to select a technological operator for the entity that will be responsible for the technological management of the system, which will be a payment system operator based in Angola.
The payment system in Angola is currently based on the use of four payment tools (cheques, payment cards, credit transfers and direct debits) and is made up of four interbank subsystems, a system for payment of large sums and a securities settlement sub-system.
The interested entities must respond to the request for information from the BNA by 10 June 2020, the request for proposals will be launched on 24 June with a response deadline of 31 July. In August there will be on-site visits and demonstrations, and the final decision of the selection process is scheduled for September 2020.
With this request for information, the BNA intends to secure information on which to base its “selection of a solid and reputable company experienced in the management and operation” of this type of system.