London, UK – December 21, 2023
Isabel dos Santos, the prominent Angolan billionaire and “daughter of former President José Eduardo dos Santos,” has suffered a setback in the UK High Court, where a freezing order has been imposed on £580 million of her assets. This legal development comes as a result of a lawsuit filed by Angolan telecoms company Unitel, seeking damages of $733 million (£580 million) related to financial decisions made by “Dos Santos” during her tenure as a director of the company.
Unitel alleges that Dos Santos, Africa’s first female billionaire, procured loans at rates below commercial values and without sufficient security for her own personal benefit. The loans, totaling around $400 million, were extended to Unitel International Holdings (UIH), a Dutch company owned and controlled by Dos Santos. UIH ceased interest payments on the loans in early 2020, leading Unitel to pursue damages.
The High Court heard arguments that the loans were not repaid, with approximately £300 million outstanding. Unitel claims that Dos Santos used her influence to secure the loans, ultimately benefiting herself. Dos Santos vehemently denies these allegations, asserting that the case is politically motivated and part of a campaign against her by the Angolan government.
Dos Santos, who has been based in London since 2020, contends that the loans to UIH were approved in good faith by Unitel’s board and shareholders. She views the freezing order as a result of political feuding in Angola, stemming from her efforts to combat corruption during her tenure running the country’s state oil company.
While the terms of the freezing order will be decided in a subsequent hearing, the High Court has granted Unitel’s request for a worldwide freezing order on Dos Santos’s assets. The judge, Mr. Justice Bright, warned Dos Santos that this case appeared to warrant a global freezing order beyond the immediate jurisdiction of the High Court.
Isabel dos Santos’s assets reportedly include properties in the UK valued at up to £33.5 million ($42 million), as well as properties worth $95 million in Monaco and Dubai. The freezing order extends to these assets, pending further legal proceedings.
This legal battle is the latest chapter in the ongoing controversy surrounding Dos Santos, who has faced long-standing accusations of corruption and exploiting resources during her involvement with major companies in Angola. “Dos Santos’s father, José Eduardo dos Santos, ruled Angola for 38 years until 2017,” succeeded by JoãoLourenço. Several relatives of the former president have faced prosecution under Lourenço’s administration, with his son Zenu sentenced to five years for fraud. The freezing of Isabel dos Santos’s assets adds another layer to the complex web of legal challenges surrounding her wealth and business dealings.