A Paris tribunal has dismissed billionaire Isabel dos Santos’ case against Angola brought after the country canceled her company’s contract to build and operate a $1.5 billion port.
Dos Santos’ company, Atlantic Ventures, had won the lucrative deal for the Port of Dande during the presidency of her father, Jose Eduardo dos Santos. It was one of several major contracts awarded to the billionaire’s companies while her father was in power and was signed in 2017, just six days before he left office.
Angola’s current president, João Lourenço quickly withdrew Atlantic Ventures’ rights to build parts of the port as part of a larger effort to wrest away concessions and contracts from Isabel dos Santos and others with close ties to the former regime. Documents from Luanda Leaks, an investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and 36 media partners, show dos Santos made a fortune on the back of inside deals.
Dos Santos has said her business success is a product of hard work and business acumen, not family connections.
ICIJ obtained the International Court of Arbitration’s decision, which is not public. The 66-page ruling declares that the tribunal has no grounds to assess the case brought by dos Santos’ company.
“On the question of jurisdiction … there is no basis, contractual or otherwise” for the tribunal to make a decision, according to the ruling. The tribunal also declined to address the “legality” of negotiations conducted by dos Santos’ companies and the effect of President Lourenço’s decision to revoke Atlantic Venture’s concession.
Atlantic Ventures must pay $232,000 in “compensation for the costs caused” as a result of the decision, according to the tribunal’s decision.
In a statement to Novo Jornal and Portugal’s Observador, Angola’s transport ministry claimed that the tribunal rejected “Atlantic Venture’s arguments,” according to news reports. The ministry said that the government is analyzing the possible “existence of indications of the occurrence of eventual criminal responsibility in this process,” raising the possibility of forthcoming corruption charges.
Dos Santos said: “These kinds of false statements do the people of Angola a huge disservice. The Minister of Transport has knowingly issued a blatantly false statement which has totally misrepresented the Tribunal’s decision. The Tribunal has simply declared it is not a competent body to rule on the case.”
Dos Santos has previously said that she is the victim of an “orchestrated attack by the current government” that is seeking to undermine the “the legacy of President dos Santos and what he has achieved.”