An ICIJ Investigation Luanda Leaks

How Africa's richest woman exploited family ties, shell companies and inside deals to build an empire

Isabel dos Santos made a fortune at the expense of the Angolan people, Luanda Leaks reveals.

Isabel dos Santos created a shell empire to move tainted billions — lawyers, accountants and consultants made it possible.

Our visual explainer shows you how Africa’s richest woman rose amid a country divided by war and rich in natural resources.

Isabel dos Santos claims her success is self-made. Luanda Leaks, an investigation by the ICIJ and 36 media partners, reveals the true origins of her fortune.

Key findings

  • Two decades of unscrupulous deals made Isabel dos Santos Africa’s wealthiest woman and left oil- and diamond-rich Angola one of the poorest countries on Earth.
  • A web of more than 400 companies and subsidiaries in 41 countries are linked to Isabel dos Santos or her husband, Sindika Dokolo, including 94 in secrecy jurisdictions like Malta, Mauritius and Hong Kong.
  • Hundreds of millions of dollars in loans and contracts were directed to dos Santos' companies.
  • A cadre of Western business advisers moved money, set up companies, audited accounts, suggested ways to avoid taxes and turned a blind eye to red flags that experts say should have raised serious concern.
  • Two firms, PwC and Boston Consulting Group, together earned more than $5.6 million between 2010 and 2017 for services provided to dos Santos and Dokolo companies.

About this investigation

A leaked trove of financial and business records reveals the inside story of how Africa’s wealthiest woman moved hundreds of millions of dollars in public money out of one of the poorest countries on the planet and into a labyrinth of companies and subsidiaries, many of them in offshore secrecy jurisdictions around the world.

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A Dutch court has dismissed a case brought by a trust company against journalists who reported on Angolan billionaire Isabel dos Santos as part of the Luanda Leaks investigation.

The dos Santos brewery masterplan hinged on one of the couple’s favorite business entities: shell companies. This time the couple turned to Mauritius the small island tax haven off the east coast of Africa.

As scrutiny of her business empire increased, African billionaire Isabel dos Santos turned to one of the world’s most secretive tax havens to conceal a $1.8 million luxury apartment.

Portugal is the latest to take action against Africa’s richest woman, Isabel dos Santos, seizing dozens of her bank accounts.

A cross-border reporting “army” knocked on doors in Europe, visited hidden retailers in Sardinia, traveled to the Brazilian Amazon, and the French Riviera.

Luanda Leaks was a trove of more than 175,000 emails – so how do we go about tackling such a massive dataset? And how can we be sure we haven’t missed major stories?

Geneva-based de Grisogono’s main shareholders are Sindika Dokolo, Isabel dos Santos’ husband, and the trading arm of Angola’s state-controlled diamond agency.

Authorities in Portugal and Cape Verde are investigating companies and service providers linked to the African billionaire Isabel dos Santos.

Residents driven from urban beach now live in wretched conditions by open sewers.

Rui Pinto, the author of Football Leaks, has been named as the source behind Luanda Leaks.

Africa’s richest woman, Isabel dos Santos, who was at the center of Luanda Leaks, is now facing fraud charges in Angola.

From Brazilian real estate to Swiss jewelry, read all the headlines from Luanda Leaks stories from dozens of ICIJ’s media partners around the world.

Banks, prosecutors and the head of PWC have responded to our Luanda Leaks investigation in the past two days.

Here’s why Luanda Leaks matters – well beyond Angola’s border, and what we learned during our eight-month investigation.


Read the Luanda Leaks documents

We’ve published emails, contracts, organizational charts, meeting videos, loan agreements and more from our investigation into Isabel dos Santos.

We speak with three investigative reporters who worked on Luanda Leaks about the importance of collaboration on this global story.

See the scale and reach of Isabel dos Santos and Sindika Dokolo’s business empire. Watch it grow from 1992 to 2019 – and explore by country or industry.

As Isabel dos Santos tells it, she made her massive fortune through business acumen, grit and entrepreneurial spirit. Luanda Leaks reveals a dramatically different story about how she became Africa’s richest woman.

ICIJ received the Luanda Leaks documents from the Platform to Protect Whistleblowers in Africa (PPLAAF).

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In Our blog

Luanda Leaks: How collaboration helped connect the dots

Project manager Fergus Shiel reveals how ICIJ came to possess the 700,000 Luanda Leaks files – and how the collaboration of 36 media partners came together.

How we mined more than 715,000 Luanda Leaks records

Luanda Leaks was a trove of more than 175,000 emails – so how do we go about tackling such a massive dataset? And how can we be sure we haven’t missed major stories?

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The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists is a global network of more than 200 investigative journalists in 70 countries who collaborate on in-depth investigative stories.

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